In a match between Ali Carter and John Higgins with the scores standing at 18 to 47 in favour of Carter and with three reds still to be potted, an attempt was made by Carter to strike the Yellow ball after potting the fourth last red. With the Yellow near the centre of the Baulk cushion and the cue ball near the centre of the top cushion and with no intervening balls that could cause an obstruction or any difficulty to the stroke and with both balls slightly away from the cushions, Carter failed to strike the Yellow, missing it by a few millimetres. The referee called a foul and it is a matter of contention whether or not a miss was also called. Some reports on the incident say that it was, but the clip shown, with sound, is very ambiguous as one of the commentators interjected at the critical point and there is no definitive proof that a miss was or was not called.
Immediately the call of foul was made Carter turned to the referee insisting that the balls had indeed come into contact and the referee then retracted the call of foul and no penalty points were awarded. There was no confirmation from Higgins that the balls had come into contact, nor was one expected or required, but a slight and rueful smile played upon his lips and we can only make guesses as to his thoughts. Subsequent video replays clearly show the cue ball passing the Yellow on the way down the table without any contact and then rebounding off the Baulk cushion to again pass the Yellow, this time with a slightly greater gap between them. No movement of the Yellow or deviation of the cue-ball from its path could be discerned. There was also no sound of balls coming together which I agree, is not a definitive indicator except to say that if there had have been it would have been a positive indicator and that it was missing adding weight to the argument that no contact had been made.
The cue-ball passing the Yellow going and coming back down the table after
towards the Baulk cushion. striking the Baulk cushion.
This now brings up two points to consider. The first being that the referee’s decision is the only one that counts and if a referee, in this or any other instance, is convinced that a foul has been committed then that referee is obligated to call it as such regardless of any protestations from either player. The referee is certainly allowed to take advice or examine any evidence available, such as video replays, but should never change such a decision on just the word of the striker as in this case. As this foul was called immediately and without hesitation, the referee must have been fully convinced of the sequence of events and should not have allowed the striker with a vested interest to make a case otherwise, or at least dismiss any protestations made. A player is certainly allowed to question a decision, but only in the form of a polite query and not as an adamant statement as in this incident and must accept the final decision of the referee whatever that may be.
The second question that arises is why a miss was not called if it wasn’t. I don’t insist that it wasn’t but there is no audible evidence that is was, which now brings us to which part of Rule 14 is relevant if the call had been made.
As stated there was no intervening obstructing ball to the central contact point of the Yellow, or indeed to any other part of it and as this could have been a ball on because a red had just been potted, it is part D of the rule that must be taken into consideration. This states that if full central ball contact is available to a ball that is or could be on then a miss must be called and if it is subsequently missed by that striker after being asked to replay the stroke then there must be a warning given that a further miss will result in the frame being awarded regardless of the scores difference between the players. Now Carter could have selected the Black which was partly obstructed by a red or the Green which was snookered by the Pink, which would then mean that full central ball contact was not available, but this ploy is not one which would allow the striker to avoid the consequences of a second miss and a warning, or a third miss and the loss of the frame, as the Yellow did have full central ball contact available, as did the Brown, Blue and Pink and in the exact wording of the rule, were balls that could have been on.
So, if the circumstances were changed to what should have been, then the scores, instead of being 18 to 47, would then have been 22 to 47 with 51 points available. Any further miss would then see the scores being 26 to 47, a difference of 21 with still the 51 available. Regardless of the difference however, a miss must still have been called in this situation even if penalty points would have been required and if a miss had been called twice and a further request had been made from the non-striker for the stroke to be replayed, a warning of forfeiture was required to be given.
It is a matter of fact that Ali Carter went on to win this frame and subsequently the match and we can only engage in conjecture as to what the outcome would have been if the correct decisions had been made.