A homeless man asks for change and a woman totters past the Crucible with a full wine glass as, just metres away inside the famous old theatre, two heavyweights of the snooker world do battle for a life-changing World Championship title.
In one corner was Ding Junhui, China’s dragon bidding for a first world crown with the weight of his country’s expectation on his slight shoulder. Opposite him Mark Selby, the Jester from Leicester bidding to join a select band of multiple world champions on the night his beloved Foxes were crowned champions of the Premier League.
This clash had little of the shock and awe which greeted Leicester’s title victory but it was pure sporting theatre of its own, as Selby ground out an 18-14 victory to lift the title and the £330,000 prize.
Ding had battled back from 6-0 down early on to twice get within a frame of Selby, but the world No.1 always seemed to find an extra gear, a way to win. He is a worthy champion.
Ding’s stunning campaign can hardly be underestimated, either. The Chinese star, based at Star Snooker Academy in the grounds of Sheffield United’s training ground, won three qualifying matches just to reach the first round after falling out of the top 16, and became the first ever Asian player to reach a world final. On this showing, he’ll be back for many more.
Not least because of Barry Hearn’s announcement that snooker is staying at the Crucible until 2027. Sheffield fought off competition from a host of international cities, including some in Ding’s homeland, to secure the sport’s top event. The adopted Sheffielder won hearts and respect, especially after a classy post-match interview, but it was Selby who left as a worthy champion. Even if, he admits, he didn’t know how he did it.
“I probably had two or three good sessions throughout the tournament,” Selby said, “and I was relying on my B-game a lot of the time. Luckily for me, it’s half decent.”
Some understatement, that. Selby shared a touching moment with his daughter and the trophy, the likes of Jon McClure from Reverend and the Makers watched on from the Crucible press seats and, relegated to watching on TV, your columnist passed a fan in a red suit and waistcoat and a woman having an argument with a bus stop. Yes, it’s been some tournament alright. Here’s to the next ten years, Barry.