Ken Doherty battles to stay in touch with Alan McManus

Crucible veterans evenly matched ahead of double session on Saturday, O’Sullivan trails Perry

Ken Doherty in action in his second round match against Alan McManus during the Dafabet World Snooker Championships at The Crucible, Sheffield. Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

Ken Doherty in action in his second round match against Alan McManus during the Dafabet World Snooker Championships at The Crucible, Sheffield. Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

Fri, Apr 25, 2014, 18:58

Ken Doherty showed all his battling qualities at the Dafabet World Championship on Friday to emerge from the first session of his last-16 Crucible clash against fellow veteran Alan McManus with honours almost even.

Doherty, the 1997 champion, savours the moments he gets to spend in Sheffield a lot more these days. This is a 19th appearance at the sport’s most hallowed venue and he trails just 4-3 in the best of 25-frame encounter.

There was a tremendous reception for the pair as they were introduced by MC Rob Walker and walked down the famous steps and into the arena with a quarter-final place at stake.

Doherty (44) chose for his walk-on music a favourite from The Pogues – The Irish Rover – and the 980 capacity crowd in the tiny but atmospheric auditorium lapped up his entrance.

The Dubliner was delighted to have got back to his favourite venue having missed out last year, and took full advantage with a 10-5 victory over Stuart Bingham in the first round.

A prolonged presence in the draw has caused havoc with the schedule of Doherty’s employers at the BBC, where he had to skip shifts as a commentator and pundit.

That was a nice problem to have but Doherty was always going to have his work cut out against McManus. The Scot enjoyed most of his own finest Crucible moments in the 1990s but has experienced a renaissance in the past 18 months.

The 43-year-old reached the semi-finals in both 1992 and 1993, and also won the Masters and two ranking titles in a golden spell of his career. But the encounter had taken on the aspect of a decennial match given the past two meetings between the two in Sheffield.

Back in 1994 it was Doherty who came out on top 13-11 at the same stage of the event, and in 2005 McManus prevailed by the same score and at the same stage.

The exchanges were always unlikely to be fast and furious between two such experienced tacticians and so it proved with the pair still in frame six while Ronnie O’Sullivan had finished eight on the other table – with the Rocket trailing Joe Perry 9-7 ahead of Saturday morning’s concluding frames.

Doherty took the first but was then hit by a four-frame streak from McManus who made breaks of 69, 107 and 71. It was the Scot’s first century at the Crucible since 2005 – bizarrely a 107 against the Irishman in their match.

The marathon sixth frame took fully 46 minutes – but crucially Doherty got back in the game by eventually tucking it away. And he added the next to close to 4-3 before the duo were hauled off a frame early by referee Olivier Marteel, ahead of further sessions tomorrow morning and evening.

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