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Monday, June 27, 2022

John Higgins backs ‘Class of 92’ to stay at the top after reaching Crucible quarters | World Snooker Championship

John Higgins believes snooker’s famous “Class of 92” can compete for at least another decade after joining Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams in the World Championship quarter-finals.

Higgins wrapped up a 13-7 win over Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham to progress, marking the first time in 11 years that the trio, who began their professional careers together in 1992, have reached the last eight at the same time.

“I think it’s incredible that it’s been 30 years and the three of us are better players than we’ve ever been,” said Higgins, now 46, after his win. “Mark has been playing incredibly and Ronnie is a tougher player now he’s scrapping for every frame –whereas before he’d maybe have thrown in the towel – which makes him undeniably the best player he’s ever been.”

Asked if Williams (47), O’Sullivan (46) and himself could go on to emulate the likes of Jimmy White, who is set to embark on his next season on the tour at the age of 60, Higgins added: “I don’t see any reason why not. Mark has already said he’s not going to retire, and Ronnie, who knows? Myself, yes, I probably could.”

Having done the damage in Sunday’s evening session when he won seven frames in a row to lead 12-4, Higgins won the first upon the resumption to go one frame from victory before Saengkham staged a mini-fightback. The Thai player reduced the deficit to 12-6 then came agonisingly close to a maximum break, reaching 112 before hitting a tough last red into the jaws of the top pocket.

Stuart Bingham also missed out on a maximum as he stepped on the gas to sink Kyren Wilson 13-9 and join his fellow former world champions in the last eight. The 45-year-old sunk 13 reds and 12 blacks in the 18th frame before snookering himself on the black and running aground on 97.

Bingham, who nevertheless emerged from an 8-8 tie at the end of the second session to claim a comfortable win, admitted a Crucible maximum is “on my bucket list … I’ll hopefully have another couple of chances in my next match. Before I retire I want to get one here, so I’ll keep trying.”

Stuart Bingham celebrates his second-round win over Kyren Wilson.
Stuart Bingham celebrates his second-round win over Kyren Wilson. Photograph: George Wood/Getty Images

The 2015 champion, who will play either Judd Trump or Anthony McGill in the last eight, paid tribute to the “Class of 92” and explained why he believes them to be so unique.

“Steve Davis in the 1980s was all about the tactical percentages, then Stephen Hendry came along and blew everyone away,” said Bingham. “The Class of 92 are a bit of both – they can break-build and play safe. The kids who are coming through now, all they want to do is pot balls.”

Trump resumes 10-6 ahead against McGill in Monday’s evening session, where the quarter-final line-up will be completed. In the remaining second-round match, Jack Lisowski holds a 9-7 overnight lead against the No 3 seed, Neil Robertson – with the winner facing Higgins in the last eight.

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