Monday at the Crucible is the day of the dark horses. Three matches begin, involving six players all trading above 25/1 for the title, yet all six of whom have either strong form or excellent Crucible credentials.
I’ve got a strong opinion about all three matches, so let’s try a treble. Kyren Wilson, Stuart Bingham and Ali Carter pays just under 4/1.
Bingham dominates head-to-head record
First arguably the tie of the round between Bingham and Ding Junhui. A former champion versus one of the best never to win a world title. The head-to-head here is very interesting – Bingham, despite generally being lower ranked, leads 10-5.
Having to go through qualifying must have been an ignominy for Bingham but he deserved it after a really sloppy season. Spells of excellence but too many matches thrown away. ‘Ballrun’ really stepped up to the challenge though, hitting four centuries, 13 fifty breaks and conceding only six frames to Chen Zifan and Luca Brecel.
That standard would have been enough to beat Ding in most events over the past couple of years. His 2019 UK Championship win came out of nowhere although that plus a decent effort in defeat to O’Sullivan at the Masters show he should never be written off in majors.
Nevertheless, I book Bingham clear favourite here and recommend a single at Evens.
Kyren to ease into second round
Kyren Wilson has beaten his namesake in all five of their previous encounters, including an easy 6-2 at the Masters. Gary has done nothing since reaching the semis here in 2019 to suggest he can pull off an upset against this very reliable and consistent opponent.
Besides the gulf in form, there are further reasons to think Kyren will turn up fully focused, in tip-top form. Arriving as a contender for the last three renewals, he’s unleashed a wave of scoring in his first match. He’s been a ton machine this season – only Trump has hit more – so 5/2 about him making three here is within range.
Carter to edge Lisowski in tight match
Carter and Jack Lisowski is a repeat of the 2019 first round – won 10-6 by the former. Jack has definitely progressed since then though, reaching three finals this season.
Again, I prefer the match-fit qualifier. Carter overcame two dangerous opponents, Alex Ursenbacher and Pang Junxu, with plenty to spare, scoring well. Plus whereas he repeatedly saves his best for the Crucible, Lisowski’s lack of tactical game has tended to be found out in these long drawn-out, elite matches.
Try a correct score combo on a narrow Carter win, by 10-9 and 10-8 scorelines.
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