Ding Junhui and Stephen Maguire will contest today's final in York. Previewing the match, Paul Krishnamurty argues the outsider is under-rated...
"At these odds, Maguire must be the bet...he has always been a streaky type, worth following when justifying his 'On Fire' nickname."
The heartiest of congratulations to anyone still holding a pre-tournament bet running in today's UK Snooker Championship Final. In betting terms, it is by far the least predictable ever in this tournament's 43 year history. Ding Junhui was matched at 95.094/1 on the exchange, Stephen Maguire 280.0279/1!
That isn't to say the combatants lack pedigree. Both are playing their third UK final - the last of which came a decade ago. Ding is bidding for his third title, Maguire his second.
Hard to split resurgent former champs
Nor could anybody argue they deserve to be here. Junhui has confounded me all week with his improved play, albeit aided by very disappointing performances from his quarter and semi-final opponents. Maguire needed a huge slice of luck against Michael White but has otherwise played some cracking stuff.
Throughout their careers, they are hard to split. Their 13 matches have yielded six wins apiece with one tie. Ding leads on frames by 51-48. The relevance of those numbers, however, is questionable given they've only played once since 2013.
Maguire has an overall edge on recent form
At these odds, Maguire must be the bet. I don't really buy the idea that he is inferior. Sure, Ding has produced his best on these elite stages more frequently. But this is largely historic form and, restricted to the last year or so, the Scot has the edge. Moreover he has always been a streaky type, worth following when justifying his 'On Fire' nickname.
Whilst always an elite talent, Stephen's career has been blighted by temperamental weaknesses but in particular one man - he has lost so many big matches to Ronnie O'Sullivan. Against a less daunting opponent, today offers a chance, perhaps his last, to win a second major title, 15 years after thrashing David Gray in the final.
High-class, close match expected
Indeed this is a huge match for both of their careers and a high-class affair is expected. I like two bets. First back Maguire as a back-to-lay - take 2.68/5 then place an order for double the stake at 1.330/100. Stephen has always been one to lay at short odds-on - he is not the most reliable finisher.
Secondly, back over 16.5 frames at 1.84/5 on the exchange. As their careers illustrate, these two are hard to split. A late night and deciding frame is far from out of the question.
Back Stephen Maguire 4u @ 2.68/5
Place in-play order to lay 8u @ 1.330/100
Back Over 16.5 Frames 5u @ 1.84/5