Yesterday saw the conclusion of the last 64 round and, again, we got two “outsiders”, Martin O’Donnell and Sam Craigie, coming out the winners.
With the clock just shy of 1am, Martin O’Donnell sealed a 2-2 draw with world number five Mark Allen to reach the Group Winner’s phase of the Matchroom.Live Championship League in Milton Keynes.
The pair faced off in the pivotal match of the group, with Allen knowing only victory would put him through, due to O’Donnell’s superior frame difference.
After O’Donnell moved 1-0 up, Allen hit back with a break of 70 to restore parity. The Northern Irishman then moved 2-1 up by taking the third on the pink. However, a break of 62 in the final frame was enough for O’Donnell to seal the crucial draw.
O’Donnell had already secured wins in his opening two ties of the day. He defeated Michael White 3-0 and sealed a 3-1 victory over Nigel Bond by winning an hour long final frame.
“I am pleased to go through and think I played pretty well all day,” said O’Donnell, who will face Tom Ford, Liang Wenbo and Ben Woollaston in the next phase on Tuesday.
“I should have probably beaten Mark tonight, but I got the job done. I try until the end and have lots of fighting spirit in me. I knew, especially once I won the first frame, that whatever happens I would be in it until the end. I have been working really hard on the mental side of things and I’m pleased I made a good break in the end to finish off there, because two years ago I would have crumbled and he would have beaten me.”
On table two, Sam Craigie topped his group to join Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stuart Bingham and Harvey Chandler in Group C of the winner’s phase, which will play out on table one tomorrow.
Craigie faced Dominic Dale in a winner takes all clash this evening. He powered to an impressive 3-0 win, with breaks of 131, 71 and 123 to beat Dale in under 40 minutes.
Martin O’Donnell is 34. If we forget the shootout, his best performances are three quarter finals, and they all came last season. He’s a very slow player, and that contributed to the very late finish yesterday. He wasn’t the sole culprit though. In fact nobody played really well consistently in that group. The matches dragged because they weren’t potting the balls. Mark Allen appeared very rusty. Michael White, still only 28, is a pale shadow of the young promising amateur he once was. He will almost certainly be relegated at the end of the season and it is sad to see. He needs help.
Sam Craigie is 25, and, for at least ten years already has been identified as a very talented player. He is very dangerous on his day. On the main tour, his performances have been disappointing. He’s never got past the last 8 in any event, and even that happened only once. This season, he had only won three matches before this event, and he has been guilty of several no-shows or late arrivals. Those facts hint at either depression or demotivation. But he has played very well yesterday. Maybe the “forced” break, because of the lockdown, has helped him.
The last round 16 starts today. Group C features two top 16 players, Ronnie and Stuart Bingham, and two young outsiders, Harvey Chandler and Sam Craigie; that has banana skin written all over it. Group D doesn’t feature any current top player, but, this one promises to be extremely close: Tom Ford, Liang Wenbo, Ben Woollaston and Martin O’Donnell will be battling it, and some high scoring can be expected!