Doherty takes the initiative


Snooker: A revitalised Ken Doherty was more than halfway towards his first  world ranking title in five years after taking charging of the Malta Cup  final today.

The 36-year-old Dubliner, by far the best player in the event overall,  established a 5-2 lead over John Higgins after the first session of their best-of-17-frames contest at the five-star Portomaso Hilton on the shores of the Mediterranean.

It meant Doherty, very much the bookies' underdog before a ball was struck, was left needing only four more frames to pocket the £18,000 first prize and become a ranking champion for the first time since he triumphed in the 2001 Thailand Masters.

Doherty, successful in his three most recent meetings with Higgins but 12-6 adrift in their career head to heads, began confidently with a 67 break but lost the second frame on the blue before falling 2-1 in arrears.

Higgins, seeking to increase his advantage at the top of the season's money list after already coming good in the Grand Prix and Saga Insurance Masters, was then guilty of several key unforced errors.

Having opened the scoring in frame four with 37, the Scot uncharacteristically misjudged a safety shot.

Doherty pounced with a 65 break to draw level at 2-2 and following the   mid-session interval added contributions of 55 and 105 to move 4-2 ahead.

But the frame that damaged the morale of Higgins most was the seventh.  Leading 56-5 he jawed a straightforward red and Doherty stepped in with an outstanding 70 clearance to widen the gap.

If Doherty does go on to victory he would climb to fourth in the provisional world rankings - consolation for the fact the first prize is the lowest for a ranking event since the 1992 Strachan Professional.

Back then Thailand's James Wattana beat John Parrott 9-3 to secure a cheque for £12,500.