From the perspective of fans, fellow pros and the media alike, a Betfred World Championship final between world No1 Mark Selby and China’s superstar Ding Junhui ticks a lot of boxes.

After Ding had come through 17-11 against Alan McManus, Selby eventually joined him after an epic 17-15 victory over Hong Kong’s Marco Fu on a dramatic day at the Crucible.

Sometimes you wish the stories could be a bit more evenly spread out, it can be a case of feast or famine, but on Saturday there was plenty for everyone to get their teeth into.

Purely on the playing front, Selby did what he does better than virtually everyone else, producing a brand of tough matchplay snooker than can see him through even what hot at his more fluent best.

Almost inevitably he saved his best session of the four against Fu, in his first semi-final for a decade, until when it mattered most at the death, and that ultimately decided the outcome.

Earlier in the contest it was declared the pair had played the longest frame in Crucible history in slightly bizarre circumstances.

The time released by the BBC of 76 minutes and 11 seconds included a short toilet break from Selby after 38 minutes. Without that it would have been 74 minutes and 32 seconds, 28 seconds short of the record set by Stephen Maguire and Mark King.

Chuck in an earlier re-rack, also not included and over four minutes-worth of play, and you had some manna from heaven for the statistical gurus, of which there some world-class exponents in Sheffield.

There was also another unlikely victim of this frame in the shape of popular BBC commentator John Virgo, also known for presenting the hit snooker-based TV show Big Break.

Believing themselves to be off air as Fu went for the final yellow, Virgo and co-commentator Willie Thorne indulged in some slightly less than complimentary observations about the length of the frame and session, including an F-bomb going out live on BBC1.

This saw an “apologetic and embarrassed” Virgo spoken to by his TV bosses, but in the big picture he hasn’t come out of it too badly, and probably said what a lot of people were thinking.

On the playing side you had great stories all over the place. Ding, after years of Crucible underachievement, was into a first world final and attempting to become the first Asian player to win the world title.

For those players and others who have been to China and seen the way Ding in particular is feted there, there be little doubt what impact that would have. And China already has one of the best young groups of kids coming through ever seen in the sport.

And Selby’ decision to take a couple of tournaments off is looking a good call at the moment, it could be that decision that helped him through a demanding match against Fu.

For the 32-year-old in addition to his own ambitions of a second world title there is the whole Leicester sporting narrative, with his beloved football team on the brink of something extraordinary in the Premier League.

And as if that was all not enough to be going on with on Saturday evening we had an incident sparking comment in both the commentary box and the studio as Fu failed to call a foul on himself despite clearly knocking a red with his finger while bridging over the pack. The incident was also not seen by referee Brendan Moore. Perhaps fortunately, Selby won the frame.

John Parrott, Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry all sounded a little surprised to say the least, and while Fu’s response afterwards was convincing and sounded genuine that he had not felt it, he probably needs to pay extra attention in the future.

Mark Allen was once fined £10,000 for saying that failure to call fouls and blatant pushes was a Chinese trait, naming Fu and others, and while he apologised there are players keeping quiet who privately think that there is a cultural tradition of calling every foul in the ‘Home Nations’ that doesn’t exist to the same degree elsewhere in the world.

But let’s put that aside for two days. It promises to be a great final, and I for one hope that Selby plays like he did in the final session, not the other three, and we get a classic encounter.

Ding looks a different animal this year at the Crucible, setting for so many previous disappointments. Suffering the indignity of having to qualify has done him no harm at all. He used it as practice, dropping just seven frames in those three matches.

And that set him up to get up and running with wins over Martin Gould, and then some revenge over Judd Trump after two previous Crucible losses.

He looks more relaxed than I have ever seen him at the venue, and in business-like mood. There was no celebration after his semi-final win – you could clearly see from his comments the job was not done yet.

There is a question mark over how he will cope if Selby manages to tie him down a bit and strangle the match and dictate the pace, but he will have his work cut out to keep Ding at bay this year and I make China’s No1 a slight favourite.

Let battle commence, going to enjoy this one.


Photograph courtesy of Monique Limbos