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banner Tuesday, 1 May, 2001, 19:28 GMT 20:28 UK
Slow joke for Ebdon
Peter Ebdon versus Stephen Lee
Deliberate Ebdon takes longer over his shots than most
BBC Sport's Clive Everton takes a detailed look at slow play in snooker after Peter Ebdon's 10-hour epic with Stephen Lee.

Slow play is only occasionally a problem in championship snooker these days.

Fifty-minute frames are rare whereas, in the 1980s the likes of Eddie Charlton, Cliff Thorburn and Terry Griffiths helped make them quite common.

Referees are empowered to ask a player to get a move on if they believe he is playing excessively slowly in order to put his opponent off.

But what is excessive?

Stephen Lee
Too painful to watch for Lee
Stephen Lee said: "The match was slow and he was pushing the limit. That sort of pace puts you off because you get really rattled."

Their middle session was especially turgid with Ebdon - at one stage - averaging 36 seconds per shot and finishing on an average of 33.

Lee, drawn into playing more slowly than usual, averaged 30.

"I was very disappointed with my performance in that session," Ebdon admitted in the post-match press conference.

"I got very bogged down. I was beating myself really."

Indeed, Lee went from 4-4 to a 9-7 in that period.

Their third session was just as slow but did not seem it as the standard was higher and the winning post nearer.

If slow play did become a regular issue, a time limit per shot would not work
  Clive Everton
Even so, Ebdon's average shot time was 33 seconds overall.

At 22, Stephen Hendry was a couple of seconds slower than usual in beating Paul Hunter 13-5.

Ronnie O'Sullivan, whose five minute 20 second 147 four years ago here at the Crucible represents a rate of less than ten seconds a shot, is normally between 15-17.

Mostly because he is such an instinctive sighter and so quickly into his stance.

At the other end of the scale is Chris Small.

Even when he was 11-5 down to John Higgins, Small had occupied the table for 51% of the time.

At 34 seconds a shot, Small lost 13-8, but this is simply his speed in all circumstances.

Not all snooker players are made the same and contrasts in styles often produce the most absorbing matches
  Clive Everton
He has tried to play quicker but even in practice he remains a player who can not produce his normal standard without religiously following a preparation procedure.

But if slow play did become a regular issue, a time limit per shot would not work.

Some shots call for more consideration than others; broken play takes longer than flowing easily from shot to shot with close control.

Tension makes a player more reluctant to commit himself if the shot choice is marginal.

Some players simply have more natural ability, the best of these like O'Sullivan and Stevens sighting a potting angle and dropping into their stance as if they were born with a cue in their hand.

But not all snooker players are made the same and contrasts in styles often produce the most absorbing matches.

Longest frames ever

Thorburn v O'Connor (1994) 93 mins
Thorburn v Gibson (1991) 88 mins
Greaves v McGrotty (1996) 86 mins
Foldavri v Williamson (1994) 84 mins
Wilkinson v Ferguson (2000) 83 mins

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