Williams and Bingham Headline Crucible Action

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Former world champions Mark Williams and Stuart Bingham face off in the highlight of what looks a thrilling second round draw in Sheffield.

Mark Williams

There are some tasty second-round World Championship matches to get stuck into and none more enticing than the clash between Mark Williams and Stuart Bingham.

Williams Worthy of Support

It’s a battle between two former world champions, with Bingham lifting the Crucible crown in 2015 and Williams a three-time Sheffield hero.

It’s possible to make a case for either of the top-class cueman progressing to the quarter-finals but, at the prices, it seems clear that Williams is worthy of support.

The Welshman comfortably progressed past Alan McManus in the first round, and while that 10-5 win may have slipped under the radar, there was a lot to like about his victory.

McManus may not be the force of old, but the Scot doesn’t give up anything without a fight, so the fact Williams was able to comfortably keep him at bay during the latter stages of the match is a good indication of the Welshman’s form.

The Welsh Potting Machine made six knocks of 50 or more in the first-round and if Sprog’s scoring in on-song then he is more than a match for most players on tour.

Bingham came through against Ashley Carty in his opening contest but it wasn’t a vintage performance from the Basildon man.

Ballrun may have been in trouble had he been up against a higher-level opponent but Carty lacked the tools to take advantage of Bingham’s numerous mistakes.

Williams won’t be as charitable as Bingham’s previous inexperienced rival and he looks a very good value 23/20 shot.

Kurt Can Hurt Higgins

Kurt Maflin and David Gilbert were involved in one of the highlights of the first round, both in terms of a contest and the standard of the match.

The London-born potter made breaks of 101, 102, 105 and 124 and in total had nine knocks of more than 50. It wasn’t as if it was a freebee of a match and there was nothing coming back from Maflin’s opponent either.

Gilbert rattled in breaks of 92, 93, 102 and 131 in that contest, so the Oslo-resident’s scoring efforts were even more impressive.

John Higgins rates a formidable Crucible opponent and the four-time world champion needs no introduction but the prices may overestimate how tough a task Maflin faces.

The Lewisham-born cueman is 51/50 given a 3.5-frame start off his higher-rated rival and that looks worth backing. Maflin has the scoring power to win frames in one visit and even if Higgins was to prove too strong in the end, that break-building should see him stay within the handicap.

Ronnie Ready for Ding

Ronnie O’Sullivan set a new record for the fastest win in Crucible history in his opening 10-1 demolition of Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and although it may not be as quick, he can run out a comfortable winner once more.

Ding Junhui stands in the Rocket’s way this time and it’s fair to say the Chinese cueman was fortunate to progress against Mark King in his opener.

O’Sullivan is clearly a major step-up from King and it remains to be seen if Ding’s game is in good enough shape to handle a player, who can make breaks of 65, 74, 76, 85, 88, 93, 101 and 115 in 12 frames.

The Rocket can be backed at 5/9 giving Ding a 3.5-frame start and that looks the way to play.

*All odds correct at time of writing

An experienced sports journalist, Henry’s knowledge spans across a number of different areas, including darts and snooker.
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