Hendry and Higgins level in long-awaited battle of the Scots
11:24 GMT, 27 April 2012
Stephen Hendry and John Higgins were level after four frames of their long-awaited first Crucible meeting on Friday as Scotland had a day to savour in Sheffield.
While Hendry made his debut as long ago as 1986, since Higgins made his in 1995 they might have gone head to head in any year.
Bafflingly they have avoided each other, but the draw offered the opportunity for a second-round tussle at this year's Betfred.com World Championship, and with Higgins overcoming Liang Wenbo and Hendry crushing Stuart Bingham, the potential showdown became a reality.
Match up: Stephen Hendry and John Higgins are tied
Higgins, the 36-year-old four-time world champion, took the opening two frames of the best-of-25-frames match, which had four frames remaining this morning, eight more tonight and a possible nine to play tomorrow, but neither player looked to have settled down.
Hendry, 43, who won the last of his record seven world titles in 1999, then responded with two classy breaks to draw level at 2-2.
Squint as you watched him return to form, and it could have been the player who dominated the famous venue through the 1990s.
And yet any Crucible newcomer told the pair had won 11 world titles between them might reasonably, in the very early stages, have asked the question: 'In which sport'
Nerves, despite their respective records in Sheffield, were inevitably a factor in a sluggish start.
They each potted an early red and followed up by missing a colour, while Hendry then committed two fouls on the black. Eventually, Higgins crept ahead in the match with breaks of 27 and 39 but the opening frame was far from pretty.
Nerves: Both players were not at their fluent best
Higgins found a little fluency and a 52 break helped him to extend his lead, with Hendry then playing one attempted plant that defied good reasoning as the frame slipped away.
Although there was a long way to go, Hendry needed to show he could be a force in the match, and duly Auchterarder's most celebrated resident came good.
A break of 81 in frame three was vintage Hendry, denied the chance to reach a century only when the green rattled around the jaws of its corner pocket.
Then Hendry fired in a swift run of 69 that ended when he clipped one red into another, presenting Wishaw cueman Higgins with an opening. At 73-0 ahead, Hendry returned to his seat knowing a possible 75 was left on the table.
Higgins began picking off the points but then snookered himself behind the blue, failed to connect with a red, and gave Hendry a free ball. That was effectively frame over, the grand master punishing the mistake to restore equality at the mid-session interval.