6) PETER EBDON 13, RONNIE O’SULLIVAN 11 (Quarter-finals, 2005)

This was perhaps the most controversial match ever played at the Crucible as Ebdon pulled off a great comeback and O’Sullivan mentally imploded.

O’Sullivan’s title defence looked to be on track when he led 8-2 and heading into the final session with a 10-6 lead he was widely regarded to be a dead cert for the semi-finals.

And then Ebdon got stuck in. And how. The pace slowed right down and the grinding began.

He had long been methodical but rarely this methodical. One break of 12 took five minutes to compile. Ebdon later claimed he had not slowed down deliberately but he must have been aware that he got under the notoriously fragile O’Sullivan’s skin.

The scenes inside the Crucible arena were bizarre: O’Sullivan dragging his nails into his forehead until he drew blood, standing on his chair, laughing and, above all, losing.

Ebdon’s victory was ultimately completed within the rules as he wasn’t warned for time wasting. Some thought it a victory for an old style match player using all he had to get the result. Others thought it a disgrace.

Either way, he was in the semi-finals and O’Sullivan wasn’t.


Anonymous said...

I loved that match, an all-time classic. I think Ebdon lost a lot of support as a result but I saw no problem with how he played.

Anonymous said...

Actually I think Ebdon GAINED a lot of support in the long run due to that match!

Anonymous said...

Oh yes! How to keep and gather new supporters for the game: Take 5 minutes to pot 4 balls. This match and the interminable Ebdon-Dott final the year later are what sapped the life out of the game in Britain.

Mat Wilson

Anonymous said...

a normal person against a total psycho.

Anonymous said...

But which is which..........

Anonymous said...

totally agree, mat...not good at all for the game

Anonymous said...

It was great for the game, it got everyone talking and here we are, still talking about it. A wonderfully dramatic match.

JohnH said...

a wonderful match- as was Ebdon/Dott which was proper matchplay snooker reminiscent of Griffiths v Charlton.
As to the Ebdon/O'Sullivan tie it was such an absorbing match in the arena that I was astonished afterwards to hear comments regarding slow play. Ebdon did play slowly but I have seen him and others play slower than that night. It was a brilliant matchplay performance and Ronnie went to pieces as he could not cope in the tactical exchanges. He lost his rhythm and could not handle that side of the game. Ebdon was no different in this match than many of the greats of the game such as Thorburn, Griffiths, Charlton and on occasion S.Davis!
Good pick Dave this was a great comeback.

jamie said...

5 mins for a break of 12 is unacceptable, this is entertainment, short term good to have people talking but matches like this an Ebdon v Dott leave a bad legacy.

Anonymous said...

Ebdon knew what he was doing, just as O'Sullivan did, when they next met at the Masters in 2006: during the middle of the frame O'Sullivan took a 'toilet break' which was 12 minutes.

Just an untimely coincidence or a dodgy stomach, O'Sullivan knew what he was doing...

Black_cat from TSF said...

Absolutely, Anon 6:11. The scoreline before the interval is one of my fondest memories of that Masters. For it was 4-0 to Ronnie, soon to turn into 6-2.

About that qf match: if the final result is all that matters then yes, it is a memorable match, a memorable comeback and a worthy winner.

Claus Christensen said...

I have no love for slow play at its most extreme and Ebdon is slow. I envy those who can watch and not notice but you can't help call out the next 2-3 shots out to him when you're watching at home. Deliberately or not, it's not good snooker to watch. The circumstances of a match can make it exciting to a degree but on most days it's boring and/or frustrating to watch.

Anonymous said...

Gamesmanship yes, frustrating yes but against the rules no.

Peter didn't win that match Ronnie lost it

Anonymous said...

Good job some of these posters didnt watch snooker in the 70s- it would of put them right off the game! even through the early 80's they would be limited to watching certain players and if Reardon was playing Higgins with quality matchplay they had better not of bothered!

Marlon said...

Surely anyone who loves the game of snooker – warts and all - has to have been enthralled by this particular match. I recall being so absorbed I didn't notice the ‘disgraceful’ slow play of Ebdon as anything other than good snooker. On the face of it; a 12 break that takes 15 minutes to compile may seem a little slow but in the context of this match it was perfectly acceptable for several reasons:

Firstly, if memory serves me correctly, O'Sullivan was 8-3 up. Ebdon had won the last frame after O'Sullivan had been so gob-smackingly dominant throughout the match it appeared there had never been such a dead cert for victory at this stage of a match. And lets not forget he was reigning champion, the best player in the world at that time and almost certainly EVER. Ebdon had finally got in the balls and knew that one mistake meant 9-3. Would you be in a rush?

Secondly, Ebdon knew, as any true sportsman does, that he must play to his own strengths and attack his opponent’s weaknesses. Why should Ebdon feel obliged to play quicker than he would like just to satisfy the myriad of people who just want to see Ronnie win, preferably by notching up another century in 23 seconds. No. This was not just snooker but sport at its very best.

I've been fascinated by snooker for some time. I may be only 29 years old but when I watched snooker as a child in the eighties I seem to remember players taking this amount of time as a matter of routine. Griffiths and Davis spring to mind. So why are people hankering after the good old days of snooker, as far as I can remember THIS IS WHAT IT USED TO BE LIKE!

And furthermore, if I may be so bold, this whole furore about Ebdon being so slow in that frame is all Ken Doherty's fault.

In the post frame analysis on the BBC (where if 2 million people saw this match - 1.999020 saw it on the beeb) Doherty took it upon himself to vociferously chastise Ebdon about his 15 minute twelve break whilst John Parrott in the studio and the commentary team in the box were much more forgiving. It looked to me as though Ebdon's style of play and probably Ebdon himself had really gotten under Doherty's skin over the years and he used this as an opportunity to really lay into him on national television. Within minutes thousands of angry Sun readers had their text messages flying across the bottom of the screen. "Ebdon should be made to make a formal apology to the the nation whilst being castrated by the rough edges of the cue that Ronnie snapped after losing to him, etc..."

Off the table I'm no fan of Ebdon (apart from his music) but anyone who tries to undermine his achievements because of his speed around the table cannot fully appreciate the dedication and mental courage it takes to be a winner at this great sport. And win at any cost so long as it’s within the rules. To see anyone exhibit such mastery of psychology and skill as Ebdon did that night is surely one of the most addictive facets of any sport. Why are we watching this game after all? To see century after century? Is it not to see a player overcome his deficiencies and prevail against all odds?

I believe that matches like this are intrinsically good for the game and people like Doherty and co. who felt it so self-righteously necessary to deplore Ebdon's tactics to be the sort that either a) just want to watch Ronnie win b) just want to watch Ebdon lose or c) just don't get what snooker is really all about and probably only watch golf to see Tiger Woods and tennis to see Roger Federra.

So yes David a great comeback it certainly was. And a great opportunity to get this off my chest after it got on my wick so much after witnessing one of the most dramatic battles ever seen on a snooker table between players with vastly different talents and mindsets only for it to be vilified by people who weren't even that interested in the first place.

I say bring back the good old days when snooker was booming... then you can have matches like Ebdon vs Dott 24/7


Matt said...

I remember chatting to referee Colin Brinded about that match and how the commentators had criticised him for not warning Ebdon for his slow play. To cut a long story short he said that they need to check the rule book!

Ultimately though I think that Marlon hits the nail on the head when he says:

"Secondly, Ebdon knew, as any true sportsman does, that he must play to his own strengths and attack his opponent’s weaknesses. Why should Ebdon feel obliged to play quicker than he would like just to satisfy the myriad of people who just want to see Ronnie win, preferably by notching up another century in 23 seconds. No. This was not just snooker but sport at its very best."

Nail on the head for me, thoroughly enjoyed the match.

Anonymous said...

Great match, it was edge of the seat stuff. O'Sullivan didn't know what to do with himself. Marlon - it was 5 minutes not 15 minutes so it wasn't that bad although he did take a lot of time over some obvious shots that night.

I think the class of O'Sullivan shone through when they next met in the Masters. He plotted "revenge" by taking 5 minute toilet breaks between frames to get to Ebdon. Silly boy, as if Peter is affected by such things! Don't play mind games with someone who can't be intimidated, it doesn't work.

snookerfan92 said...

Highlights of that match can be viewed here:

Ebdon Interview After The Match:

Anonymous said...

After O'Sullivan took Ebdon apart en route to his first world title in 2001, Ebdon acknowledged that the future champion "played like Mozart..." Ha.

BTW, at O'Sullivan's post match press conference straight after the 2005 world championship to Ebdon, he said that (again) he probably would not be attending next week's Premier League Finals weekend, and that the likelihood would be he wouldn't return to the game next season...Yes, this is O'Sullivan talking.

Of course he returned the following season, but more remarkable, may have been the fact that 7 days after that loss to Ebdon he promptly thrashed Hendry and Williams in the semi and final respectively, to win his first 'new look' Premier League title.

What's the saying: 'A week is a long time in Snooker?' Definitely not for O'Sullivan!

Thanks, Joe

Mal said...

Ebdon is a gentleman of the game. Gracious in defeat and modest when winning. That match was enthralling.
I actually do like to watch O'Sullivan, but he isn't a nice guy and although the same could be said of the Hurricane, Ronnie doesn't have the charisma Alex did.

Also some of the greatest matches are with two players with contrasting styles. This has had lots of comments on it and clearly these matches are what get people talking! Great comeback and psychology from Ebbo - who has some of the most ingenious and aggressive shots in the game.

The talk of the Masters is irrelevant to this discussion - and also irrelevant because it is the one tournament where IMO Ebdon is more blase as it is only prestige, but not ranking!