Whirlwind needs to brew up a storm to overpower Wattana

JIMMY WHITE has a mountain to climb today if he is to remain in the Embassy World Championship. The six-times Crucible runner-up faces a 6-3 deficit against Thailand’s James Wattana.

And that represents a massive recovery for a player who won his one and only ranking tournament match of the season in the Scottish Open earlier this month.

However, there is a glimmer of hope for the Whirlwind making his 23rd appearance in the final stages of the game’s most prestigious event.

However, there is hope as he scored a remarkable 6-5 victory over world champion Peter Ebdon in the Benson & Hedges Masters back in February after being 5-1 down.

And it is going to take something equally remarkable for the 40-year-old Londoner to avoid a costly first round exit. Two shots towards the end of the session summed up White’s luck this season. He showed plenty of resilience to come back to 4-3 from 4-0 down before disaster struck.

Clearing up to obtain parity at 4-4, White suffered a ‘kick’ as he tried to pot the final pink.

Wattana accepted the unexpected lifeline and knocked in the pink and black to lead 5-3.

White, who prevented his Bangkok-born rival reaching the 1993 Embassy final, should then have won frame nine. His break of 55 was the highest of a nervous session and he should have gone on to put the outcome beyond doubt.

Instead, he missed a simple red and world number 32 Wattana stepped in with a superb 64 clearance to take the frame on the black. Defeat for White would not only signal the end of his interest in the current championship. It would also mean he drops out of the top 16 for next season.

The reality of that means he would have to qualify to reach the final stages of the 2004 world championship.

He has done it before but it gets harder than ever. And his slim chances of becoming world champion are receding with every passing year.

Wattana requires four of the remaining 10 frames to earn a last 16 meeting against world number seven Stephen Lee.

Joe Swail and Tony Drago were a breath of fresh air to the Crucible yesterday after the slumber inducing match between Alan McManus and Nigel Bond.

McManus and Bond returned last evening Tues for an unscheduled third session after failing to complete their match on time.

Ulsterman Swail and Maltese star Drago raced through their opening nine frames session in only two hours 19 minutes. Welsh referee Eirian Williams had problems keeping pace in the early stages as Drago sprinted into a 4-0 lead.

The 37-year-old Valletta cueman took only 48 minutes to claim the opening four frames with runs of 44, 76, 74 and 39. Swail, the former English Amateur champion from Belfast rallied to trail only 5-4 at close of play.

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