The Grand Slam of Darts last 16 looks a little different to how we assumed it might.

Pretty much all of the expected names have made it through. But not necessarily in the expected order. It makes for some intriguing knockout clashes. With the format now as the best of 19 legs rather than nine, the scope for darting drama at the Grand Slam widens.

Harrington’s darting dream

There’s possibly one name which wasn’t widely backed to appear, and that’s Ryan Harrington. The reason for that isn’t due to any notion of Danny Noppert’s infallibility. Harrington has simply not had a sniff of success since he first claimed a Tour Card, let alone reaching the business end of a major. For context, he had managed two £2,000 payouts in recent years – one of which was on the Challenge Tour. He beat that just by showing up in Wolverhampton, and will net at least £10,000 from his Grand Slam adventure. This is the biggest game of his career.

Unsurprisingly, Dave Chisnall is the overwhelming favourite to wipe the floor with Harrington. After smoothly dispatching Jamie Hughes, Rob Cross and Lisa Ashton, Chizzy will want another routine victory. If he scores as heavily as he tends to, Harrington will be chasing the whole time. Simply put, beating Chisnall would be a seismic shock, and a genuine Grand Slam all-time upset.

More evenly matched are the pair playing in the second game. Gabriel Clemens topped a tricky-looking Group G through superb scoring. The German is one of those players who looks ready to explode onto the scene. Could the Grand Slam be where the German Darts Masters finalist makes his first serious dent in a major? If it isn’t, that breakthrough is around the corner. Given his form in Wolverhampton so far, he won’t be interested in belaying his rise to stardom.

Another man who will surely get a serious sniff at silverware is Glen Durrant. That being said, he hasn’t shown any of what you might call ‘peak Duzza’. A 5-0 win over Nathan Aspinall is wonderful on paper, and much less flattering on action replay. The essence of ‘peak Duzza’ is the type that wins trophies, and grinds down even heavy treble-hitters like Clemens. As the BDO’s last remaining representative – no matter what certain peers think of that arrangement – Durrant now has fans from both sides of the schism supporting him. He is Mr Grand Slam, in a way.

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Two titanic tussles

The way things went in Groups E-H, all the seeds went through but have managed to run into each other right away. Michael Smith did his part, topping Group H. He has gone from stupendous to disinterested, and still come away with a perfect record. Daryl Gurney, meanwhile, dismantled Brendan Dolan and Richard Veenstra but was undone by Gabriel Clemens.

For the most part, it’s fairly tight between these two. Smith has seven career head-to-head wins against Gurney’s five (with one draw). Yet neither player has won consecutive matches against the other since 2016-2017. That’s an ill omen for Gurney, who beat Smith in the Premier League back in May. The Michael Smith who creamed Nathan Aspinall wins this game. Then again, that Smith wins every game. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come out enough.

Rob Cross must have thought he was going to top Group E. After beating Lisa Ashton, he put himself in a decent position against Dave Chisnall. He somehow managed to get from that point to going a leg from elimination. Jamie Hughes was held off, barely at arm’s length, and the world number two survived. He hopefully learned a lesson from the number of chances spurned on his stuttering route into the Grand Slam knockouts. Cross won his last 16 game when he finished second in his group in 2017, but went out immediately after winning his group last year, so perhaps it’s a good sign.

That being said, this isn’t the stage of a tournament where you want to have a player of Peter Wright’s calibre. Snakebite, who cruised through a sub-par Group F, knew he’d have a tough opponent no matter which way you cut it. Getting Cross must surely be the unkindest cut of all. But a win would open this half of the Grand Slam draw up for the Scot. Neither is firing on all cylinders, so it could be more of a case of the player who blinks last edging a close one. Though if one finds a rhythm, they could run away with it and be the favourite for their quarter-final.

Grand Slam of Darts 2019

Day Five schedule

19:15 Dave Chisnall v Ryan Harrington
20:15 Gabriel Clemens v Glen Durrant
21:15 Michael Smith v Daryl Gurney
22:15 Peter Wright v Rob Cross

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

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Author: Ed McCosh