Pumped-up Mark Selby hit back at Stuart Bingham for accusing him of ‘gamesmanship’ ahead of his crack at a fourth World Championship title getting off to a stuttering start, writes Will Jennings.
The Jester from Leicester trailed Shaun Murphy 5-3 after the first session in the Crucible final having toppled Bingham in a 17-15 thriller the previous night.
Bingham, world champion in 2015, accused world No.4 Selby of slow play after a turgid clash in which both players racked up average shot times of almost 29 seconds.
Selby slammed the world No.18’s comments and says both players were equally culpable of being snooker snails before his difficult first session against Murphy, the world No.7, on Sunday afternoon.
The 37-year-old, who lost the last two frames against Murphy to go into the evening behind, said: “I’ve never, ever tried to do any kind of stuff like gamesmanship in my life in any match.
“Stuart has probably said that in the heat of the moment after he’d lost. It’s never a nice time to do an interview – but we were both on 28 seconds a shot, which is slow, and he can’t call me out for being slow when he’s at the same shot time.
“It was only one or two shots. I had one shot where I had a brain freeze when I played a red, but the average shot time we were both on the same.
“I just go out there and try my hardest and that’s all I do. My dad always instilled in me to go out there and do everything you can until that last ball is potted.
“That was my intention out there – you can’t predict how the game’s going to go or how the balls are going to go.
“I’m just out there to do a job and as long as I get to that magic number I couldn’t care less how I play.
“If I need to get to 17 first I’d be out there for five days if I needed to, it wouldn’t bother me one bit. Obviously you want to go out there and play well, and if you play well you are entertaining the crowd anyway.”
The slow pace of the contest meant it became the first ever Crucible semi-final to return to the table for a fifth session late on Saturday evening.
Selby was on the brink at 16-15 when the players came back out before a gutsy break of 54 hauled him over the line to book a tantalising final against Murphy.
The 19-time ranking event winner started slowly in the Sunday showpiece as Murphy, 38, opened up an early 2-0 advantage.
Selby edged the third frame to cut the gap – despite a break of 65 from Murphy – before a fluent visit of 89 in the fourth levelled at the mid-session interval.
Murphy regained his advantage with a fifth-frame 75 before Selby won a scrappy sixth to restore parity once more.
But breaks of 64 and 52 from the Magician cast a spell over Selby and meant he went into last night’s evening session with considerable work to do.
The Sheffield showpiece reaches its climax this evening as Selby and Murphy – who are old friends and both coached by Chris Henry – do battle for the trophy on the storied Crucible baize.
Speaking in the Eurosport studio after the first session, six-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan said: “5-3 is a fair result on the balance of play.
“Murphy has looked more fluent and the more dangerous opponent, but Selby is still cueing well. On the balance of play, you’d have to say 5-3 is the right result.”
Watch the World Snooker Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport app from April 17- May 3
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