Asif battles Sajjad for Ranking Snooker crown today

Asif battles Sajjad for Ranking Snooker crown today

KARACHI: Old adversaries, Muhammad Asif and Muhammad Sajjad, will be up against each other yet again in the title clash of the 3rd Jubilee Insurance Ranking Snooker Championship 2019 after having overpowered their opponents in the semi-finals here at the Karachi Gymkhana on Wednesday.

To be telecast live by Geo Television Network, the best-of-13-frame final between the two former national champions from Punjab will commence at 10am on Thursday (today) with the prize distribution ceremony scheduled to be held at 3:45pm in which Tahir Ahmed, Managing Director, Jubilee General Insurance, will be the chief guest.

In the semi-finals, top-seeded Asif trounced unseeded Sohail Shahzad of Sindh 5-1 with the frame scores of 81-43, 45-68, 52-6, 76-6, 61-17, 93-31 while Sajjad, ranked 12th before the start of the event, came from behind to topple fourth seed Muhammad Bilal 5-4 with the frame scores of 22-67, 72-1, 8-59, 69-29, 62-64, 23-73, 88-6, 62-50, 126-7.

Asif and Sajjad, who have been multiple winners of the national championship in the past, had also met in the preliminary rounds a couple of days ago in which the former had succeeded in taming his old foe.

The final between the two vastly-experienced cueists, both of whom are known for possessing big match temperament is expected to be a close affair despite Asif enjoying a psychological advantage over Sajjad, who hasn’t had much success at the national level in the recent past.

Neither of them is short of international experience either. The 37-year-old Asif, hailing from the industrial town of Faisalabad, is also credited to have annexed the world title in 2012 while the 33-year-old Sajjad, belonging to Sargodha, has been a former world number two.

The semi-finals, which started simultaneously in the morning session, followed a contrasting pattern. Asif needed only an hour and 55 minutes to trounce the 37-year-old Sohail, playing in front of his home crowd while Sajjad needed nearly three hours to turn it around against Bilal, the 34-year-old reigning national champion from Mandi Bahauddin.

Asif, who had lost only one of his five preliminary round matches, proved too good for the left-handed Sohail, who was unable to reproduce his top form which earned him a place in the last four ahead of the seeded cueists.

Known for calling the shots in the knockout games, the former world champion lived up to his big reputation and didn’t allow his opponent to settle down. He dominated the game from the outset and signed off with a typically fluent break of 58 in the sixth frame, after having fired a break of 56 two frames earlier.

There was more excitement and drama in the other semi-final which was also placed at a fast pace as both the cueists preferred to play attacking game instead of engaging into a defensive mould.

Bilal, famous for his aggressive potting, seemed in command of the situation and in sight of victory, when he secured a 4-2 lead in the best-of-nine-frame duel. But Sajjad fought back from the dead and played exceptionally well under pressure to change the course of the match.

Sajjad clinched three frames on the trot to complete a magnificent victory which he celebrated by compiling a break of 117 in the decisive ninth frame.

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