Two cracking matches begin on Friday, either of which could easily prove the highlight of the second round. Six-time champion Ronnie O'Sullivan takes on Mark Allen. Defending champion Mark Selby continues his bid for a fifth world crown against Yan Bingtao. Don't assume that Crucible prowess will be decisive. Today's double involves both outsiders.
Daily Double (£2 stake returns £13)
Back Yan Bingtao to win Over 11.5 Frames @ 2.01/1
Back Mark Allen to win @ 3.259/4
Allen's Crucible record is way below what one would expect of a player with his pedigree. He hasn't reached the semi-finals since 2009. However a big positive in his favour is his record against O'Sullivan. Trailing 6-4 to Ronnie over the long-term is a ratio almost all players would accept but in majors, he actually leads 3-1.
Ronnie less reliable in big matches nowadays
I'm not wholly convinced with either player. In the balls, Ronnie is as good as ever but he isn't so reliable in the biggest matches anymore. In seven finals since last winning here in 2020, he's won only once, including stunning losses to Fan Zhengyi and Jordan Brown that would have been unimaginable a few years ago.
If Allen brings his A-game and puts Ronnie under pressure, he can win. Whilst generally being negative on his chances of late, I thought he knuckled down and scored well against a tricky first round opponent. Take 9/4 as the first leg in the double and try a couple of correct scores on Allen to win 13-10 and 13-11. Combined, that pays around 15/2.
Has Bingtao got Selby's measure?
In contrast, Bingtao is a more confident selection. I make him favourite against Selby, based on their first round form and everything else this season. The Chinese star has won their last three encounters and was impressive against Chris Wakelin.
Selby, on the other hand, did not answer the questions around his chances. We got a bit lucky with our Jamie Jones handicap bet because the Welshman didn't play anywhere near his best or capitalise on half the chances he had. If Selby persists with unforced errors, a player of Bingtao's class will punish him.
It may well be that Bingtao is Selby's worst opponent among his main rivals - ideally equipped for long-drawn out sessions and tactical frames. He's improved considerably since winning the 2021 Masters and definitely than when losing 13-11 to Judd Trump at this stage in 2020. As so many have noted, his game looks perfect for the Crucible.
Rather than taking 5/4 for the match, I prefer Evens about Bingtao winning Over 11.5 Frames - thus covering a trademark Selby deciding frame win. Also try 13-7 and 13-8 at combined odds around 19/2.
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