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Higgins v Stevens clash is third round highlight at UK snooker

Two former winners of the Coral UK snooker title meet in the last 32, as ‘the Wizard of Wishaw’ John Higgins and Welsh dragon Matthew Stevens renew acquaintances.

It is in fact a rerun of the 1998 final, when this prestigious ranking tournament was held in Bournemouth.

Higgins, a best price 25/1 chance with the sponsors to win this title for a fourth time, bested Stevens, who is no longer part of snooker’s elite top 16, that day, only for the Wales cueman to avenge that loss in the following year’s last four.

Previous head-to-heads between these popular green baize veterans have four-time Crucible king Higgins victorious twice as often (16) as his opponent (eight). The Scot is a worthy odds-on 8/15 favourite, then.

Stevens, UK champion in 2003, is a 6/4 shot to knock Higgins out, which is a decent price when you consider the latter is yet to make a century break at this edition of the tournament yet.

Over the last two years when the pair have met in a best of 11 frames format, 6-2 has always been the score. That was twice in Higgins’ favour (6/1 to be so again here) and once for Stevens (double his opponent’s odds at 12/1).

Going further back, to the 2002 Irish Masters and 1997 Grand Prix semis, deciding frames were needed to separate these Celtic competitors. A 3/1 price says this latest meeting between Higgins and Stevens goes the distance.

Judd Trump, winner of this York event in 2011, will have to be on his guard against an upset, meanwhile, as he tackles Scottish potter Fraser Patrick, conqueror of Ryan Day. Bristol boy Trump is the 11/2 second-favourite behind Ronnie O’Sullivan to take the title again.

While Patrick, a 6/1 shot to take another scalp, upset Welshman Day, ‘Naughty Snooker’ was in session in round two. Trump made a century break en route to thrashing Indian cueman Aditya Mehta 6-1, and is massively odds-on at 1/10 for victory again.

Far East tournament chances Ding Junhui (6/1 for a third UK title here) and Marco Fu (25/1 to go all the way) also enjoy firm favourite status for their third round matches.

Chinese sensation Ding does battle with youngster James Cahill, who has the distinction of being snooker legend Stephen Hendry’s nephew.

Blackpool-born Cahill has bested two of the sport’s top 40 to set up this clash with Junhui, but is a 6/1 outsider for a third giant-killing on the spin. Ding is 1/10 to put an end to this teenager’s run.

Thai potter Dechawat Poomjaeng stands in Hong Kong cueman Fu’s way, continuing the latter’s theme of facing Asian opposition at the Barbican Centre. A 4/11 price says the established star negotiates another Oriental encounter.

Ken Doherty may see his run ended in the last 32 by world number eight Ricky Walden. ‘The Darling of Dublin’ fell to this foe at the same stage of the China Open earlier this year.

Walden has already knocked out one of snooker’s popular players-turned-pundits in York when he beat Steve Davis 6-2 in round one. ‘The Walnut’ is odds-on at 1/3 to eliminate the Irishman here.

Doherty has dug deep to roll back the years, however, and, although history is against him with one win in four against Walden, it’s 9/4 on another upset here. That is decent value, so take it punters if you fancy the Dubliner to work his Celtic magic with the cue one more time.