Robert Milkins and Sam Craigie progressed to the second stage of BetVictor Championship League Snooker – Ranking Edition at the Morningside Arena, Leicester live on Viaplay Xtra in the UK, and with broadcasters worldwide including Viaplay in Scandinavia, the Baltics, Poland, and the Netherlands and Table 2 live on Matchroom.Live globally.
Milkins headed into the group alongside Dominic Dale, Muhammad Asif, and Alex Taubman as he looked to build on winning the BetVictor Series bonus last campaign in a truly memorable season.
Dale proved to be the biggest threat to Milkins’ hopes of progressing with the 51-year-old after the Spaceman took all three points off Asif and Taubman by the same scoreline of 3-1 to only need a point in his final match of the day against Milkins. It came after Milkins won his opening match 3-0 before a draw with Asif left him with all the work to do.
In the group decider, Milkins took the opening two frames knowing one more would see him through whilst Dale stood a chance if he was to get in during the third frame. Dale lost the cue ball on a break of 35 which brought Milkins to the table who put on 45 to have a slender advantage before a neat safety put his counterpart in trouble. After a brief safety battle, Milkins made a steely 31 to secure top spot in the group despite Dale’s best efforts.
Milkins said: “I am pleased to get through at the start of the season. I am bewildered by my game. I thought I was playing alright but I’ve miscued 12 times today. I think that’s through lack of practice and I think I’ve not put enough time in. It’s probably just me, not quite enough practice. That’s normally the first thing that happens, it catches you out. You’re not going through the ball like you should. It’s probably me. I don’t know! It was an amazing season last year, I couldn’t have wished for anything better over the last few years.”
Sam Craigie progressed through a Group 23 which contained plenty of pedigree with former European Masters winner Fan Zhengyi joined by veteran Fergal O’Brien and debutant Ahmed Elsayed. Craigie came into the group as the second seed won his opening encounter over O’Brien 3-0 in convincing fashion before another whitewash this time over Elsayed left the Geordie only needing a point in the final match of the day against Fan to progress in which he duly obliged. It came after Fan fought from 2-1 down to share the spoils with O’Brien which all but ended his hopes of progressing to winners’ week.
Craigie said: “I had a few good breaks, I had struggled at times though so I have to find some more consistency going forwards. I started to ease my way back into it in the last few weeks then I stepped it back in it. I’ve been at 30% today compared to how I’ve been playing in practice. I should have been there (in the WST Top 32) last season, after the UK Championship, I fell off, I am not sure why that is but I have a chance to put it right.”
Matthew Selt enters in Group 20 tomorrow James Cahill, Andres Petrov, and Sydney Wilson live on Table 2 whilst rising star Si Jiahui begins his season in Group 25 with Mark Joyce, Mohamed Ibrahim, and Haydon Pinhey live on Table 1. Watch BetVictor Championship League Snooker – Ranking Edition on Viaplay Xtra – FreeView in the UK and Ireland. Those in Scandinavia, the Baltics, Netherlands, and Poland can watch live on Viaplay whilst Matchroom.Live is available to those without a broadcaster. See where to watch here.
The BetVictor Championship League Snooker – Ranking Edition carries a first prize of £33,000. Ali Carter, Robert Milkins and World Championship semi-finalist Si Jiahui enter the fray in the coming days while former world champions Judd Trump, and Shaun Murphy are all due to play next week, with the event concluding on July 21.