Shaun Murphy 9 - 8 Stuart Bingham

Stuart Bingham is proving to be an obdurate opponent for favourite Shaun Murphy in the World Snooker Championship final. While the 2005 champion does indeed lead by one frame after day one at the Crucible, he has every reason to wonder why he does not enjoy a far more commanding position when they resume later today.

Murphy quickly out of the blocks

The two players were locked at 4-4 after the first session, but the initial pattern of the game hinted that Murphy was in the ascendancy. He roared into a 3-0 lead with three breaks over fifty, but Bingham had faced similar onslaughts before in earlier games in the tournament.

Victories over the 'hot shots' of Ronnie O'Sullivan and Judd Trump indicated that he has resilience to go with a sound game. Bingham clawed his way back into the match against his good friend to go in level at the interval. A fourth frame century (105) also demonstrated that his scoring ability is up there with the best of the players on the circuit.

Similar pattern in second session

It was a similar story after the break, as Murphy again started off better. He moved into an impressive 8-4 lead, including breaks of 106 and 121, as his game seemed to be clicking into top gear. It was enough to ensure that the murmurings of a potentially early finish to the final began to surface once more.

Yet the Essex man seems relaxed under the bright lights in Sheffield and rallied a second time. A brilliant 123 break in frame 14 showed that he is determined to battle right to the end. Murphy this time did hold the advantage at the session's conclusion, but only just at 9-8. Bingham was slightly fortunate to take the last frame of the night, as an audacious fluke settled the frame in his favour.

Mind games in evidence

They may be friends off the table, but there was evidence that both players were focused on the task in hand. The very first frame had looked likely to be over in a matter of minutes, after a classy break of 68 left Bingham needing several snookers. He decided to play on though, presumably to get a feeling for the cloth and speed of the table.

Although the frame did eventually go Murphy's way, the incident was clearly not lost on him.

With the situations reversed in a later frame, Murphy this time refused to concede when faced with little chance of coming back. Again it was explained away as perhaps an attempt to slow his opponent's rhythm down. Yet Murphy usually wants to move the match along himself, so it seemed a curious change of strategy.

Bingham enjoying the experience

What has been evident from the opening exchanges is that Bingham is clearly enjoying his final experience. This is what he has practiced for over all those years. The spotlight is on him for once and he will not yield it easily. At 38-years-old he may never reach this stage again during his career.

Murphy has hit him with some hard blows but the Essex man keeps coming back for more. It promises to be an intriguing final couple of sessions as they play to a finish today.