x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

UAE cueist Shehab takes the positives despite loss to China

The UAE player beats world No 4 Ding in singles but the Chinese duo win the doubles and the match 3-2.

Mohammed Al Shehab in action in Thailand.
Mohammed Al Shehab in action in Thailand.

Mohammed Shehab had seemed a broken man after the defeat against Thailand A on Tuesday night, frustrated at losing to men who, he said, were no better players than he was.

Against China yesterday, he gave proof of that claim, defeating Ding Junhui, a multiple winner on the professional circuit and the current world No 4, in the opening frame.

Shehab and Mohammed Al Joker then won the doubles to raise hopes of one of the biggest upsets of the World Cup, but the experienced Chinese duo won the reverse singles to prevail 3-2.

Still, Shehab was happy to prove they belonged at that level with a battling performance.

"After I defeated Ding, you could see how happy everybody was about it," he said, "not just the members of our team, but everyone.

"Nobody wanted to see a team that will be whitewashed in every match. They want to see a team that will compete and will give a hard time to everyone. I am happy we showed that today.

"We would have been happier to win 3-2, but you have to realise those guys are playing at the top level day in and day out. So although we lost in the end, I believe we played a good match."

Shehab bolted out of the blocks with a break of 40 against his "good friend" and former roommate Ding, to take the opening frame 63-15. Al Joker and Liang Wenbo were then involved in tense stand-off before the Chinese steered clear with a visit of 47 to win 64-18.

The Emirati pair, however, took the lead again by tactically outplaying the Chinese in a 78-49 doubles victory.

Ding, one of the most prolific break-builders in the game with a century of centuries to his name, then came up with a break of 92 in the fourth frame against Al Joker to win 100-1 and to level the scores, leaving Shehab and Liang to battle for the tie.

Shehab seemed to be in control of the deciding frame until he went for a high-risk red in a middle pocket and missed. Liang, the world No 30, then took charge with a break of 62 and finally triumphed 78-43.

Next up for UAE team are the veteran Maltese pair of Alex Borg and Tony Drago, who defeated the Thailand A team of James Wattana and Dechawat Poomjaeng 3-2 yesterday.

"We are looking forward to Malta now," said Shehab. "They have Drago, a vastly experienced player on the pro circuit. Borg is a former European champion, so it is going to be another tough match for us; not any easier than the first two.

"We are not saying we are here to win the World Cup, but we just want to present a good image of UAE snooker to the world. Trust me, we don't lack in anything but the experience of this atmosphere."

In the other matches yesterday, Afghanistan crashed to their third consecutive defeat in Group D, with the second-seeded pair of John Higgins and Stephen Maguire giving just one frame to Mohammed Saleh and Mohammed Rais Senzahi.

Northern Ireland proved too good for Brazil and won 4-1 in Group C, while England prevailed 3-2 over Belgium despite Ali Carter losing both his singles.