We are almost through a week of Grand Slam of Darts action, and two semi-finalists are known. Peter Wright was the first to qualify after a 16-10 win over the BDO’s last hope, Glen Durrant. Gary Anderson booked his semi-final spot, and a meeting with Wright, thanks to a 16-12 defeat of Mensur Suljovic. The two Friday matches were difficult to call, but in the end the Scots’ quality and experience told.

Saturday sees another heady mix of those who have been there and done that, and those newly embarked on their darting adventures. First, Phil Taylor takes on Daryl Gurney. Then it’s a repeat of the European Championship final, as Michael van Gerwen clashes with Rob Cross. There were no shocks on Friday – could Saturday provide them? If not, there are two mammoth semi-finals to savour on Sunday.

Quarter-final ties are best of 31 legs, and begin at 7pm GMT.

Phil Taylor vs Daryl Gurney

“Is Daryl Gurney the future of darts?”, Phil Taylor was asked. The response was emphatic. “No. No. No, no, no.” Possibly, Taylor truly fails to see Gurney’s potential to be anything more than a challenger to greater heirs. The other, more likely, suggestion is that the master of the mind game wanted to push the Northern Irishman’s buttons.

‘The Power’ could be playing a risky game. He has, essentially, given Gurney the impetus to let his darts do the talking. Yet Taylor knows that Gurney’s biggest weakness is himself. ‘Superchin’ is a consistent scorer, having notched 13 tournament maximums to date, and is up there with the very best on doubles. But when something gets under his skin, things start to go wrong.

Whether he is the future of darts or not, Gurney is a clear and present danger to Taylor. His 10-2 thrashing of James Wade proved that. Certainly, Gurney will be more of a challenge than Darren Webster – with an even more volatile temperament – managed to be. Taylor has a lot on his side though. Experience, the calm demeanour of a man who has nothing more to prove, and a good tournament average (excluding the half-hearted effort against Wade) all make the six-time Grand Slam champion a clear favourite. Gurney’s determination to take the bragging rights while he still can shouldn’t be underestimated, though.

Michael van Gerwen vs Rob Cross

Rob Cross’ momentum shows no sign of slowing down. A fourth consecutive ton-plus average on the big stage is another sign that the former electrician can now count himself among the darting elite. The next step is to prove himself at a major. Reaching the European Championship final was a good start. Beating Michael van Gerwen in the Grand Slam quarter-finals would be massive. To beat Raymond van Barneveld with a 103.87 average, especially when initially under the cosh, shows Cross has the ability and the mindset to win big games.

But there isn’t more of a big-game player right now than van Gerwen. The world number one kicked into high gear with a 105 average in the 10-3 defeat of Steve Lennon. Yet, even then, it was clear the Dutchman has even more in the tank. When he goes on the rampage, like in the six-leg winning streak completed in just 75 darts, there is no stopping him. Cross has been excellent on his cover shots throughout the Grand Slam, and finished under pressure superbly against ‘Barney’. He will have to do the same again, consistently, without fail. It is the hardest of tasks.

‘Voltage’ will need to keep reminding van Gerwen that the heat is on, as he did in the group stages. But he will know that, like in the Group A clash, ‘Mighty Mike’ could kick on at any time. Naturally van Gerwen, the overwhelming favourite for every tournament he enters, is the likely winner in Wolverhampton. Cross’ stock would rise at an even more rapid rate if he could defy the odds and stop MvG in his tracks.

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Author: Ed McCosh