Selby to prevail after another marathon



Following another pair of epic semi-finals, two former champions and Crucible legends will contest today’s final, starting at 1pm.

Mark Selby is playing his fifth world final, bidding for his fourth title and first since 2017. This will be Shaun Murphy’s fourth final, as he bids to regain the crown after 16 years.

Murphy standard in the semis was unbeatable

Without doubt, Selby was the star of the first three rounds, thrashing quality opposition. However Murphy was the star of the semi-finals, producing a quite remarkable standard as he turned a 10-4 deficit to a 17-12 win over Kyren Wilson. It was one of the greatest performances in the history of this championship.

Throughout this tournament, Murphy has been priced and assessed with the latest, troubled season in mind. That is totally irrelevant now. If there were legitimate doubts that he wouldn’t cope with the most extreme pressure sessions after some time away from contention, Shaun completely dispelled them yesterday.

Selby has slight head-to-head advantage

Head-to-head, there is very little to choose between them. Selby leads 14-12, by 126 frames to 115. In majors, Selby leads 4-2. That advantage merely reflects his greater consistency. They know each other’s games inside out and have no reason to especially fear one another.

The statistic that might scare Murphy is Selby’s unbelievable record in finals. Prior to losing the one-frame Shootout final, he’d won 16 of his last 17 ranking finals, including 11 on the spin. As he proved yet again last night, The Jester from Leicester is absolute granite.

All of which points towards a similar outcome to the semis. A tight, long match in which Selby eventually grinds down his opponent. His forte. However that is reflected by odds of 1.574/7 and that doesn’t appeal, given how well Murphy played yesterday.

Murphy hard to oppose in this mood

‘The Magician’ has always been a streaky player. When he won the title, he was an inexperienced qualifier with a low profile. He turned up at the Crucible and blew everyone away. There are few better single ball potters in history and, on song, he is very hard to defend against, as Wilson just learnt.

Following him on a hot streak, opposing him when cold, has generally proved a fruitful strategy. Murphy is loving every minute of this unexpected run. He’s got the crowd behind him and the pressure is off. I think you’ll get a decent run for your money at 2.747/4.

The fear is that Selby will slow the game down and destroy Murphy’s current fluency. Over the course of the match that will favour the master grinder. Therefore my betting strategy may sound contradictory.

Back Murphy early but Selby to prevail

First, take the enhanced #Oddsboost of 9/4 about Murphy winning this afternoon’s first session. Selby is famous for comebacks, not fast starts, and Shaun is on a roll. But also back a Selby special – to win 18-17, 18-16 and 18-15.

That’s a plan that has paid dividends throughout his career. The semi-final was better representative of his style than those early round strolls. Yet again, this has the hallmarks of a ‘Crucible Classic’.

Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty