The PDC World Darts Championship defending champion returns to snatch back the headlines.
Like Sunday afternoon, we see five seeds and one non-seed lock horns at the Ally Pally. Given the tradition of English dominance at the World Darts Championship, numbers-wise, it’s interesting that there are just three all-English matches in the Last 32. One of them pits James Wade against Steve Beaton, and that’s how we start our evening.
Beaton desperate to break new ground
Wade put in a most Wadey performance, Wading his way through to round three with a 3-0 win over Ritchie Edhouse. He averaged less than his opponent, and had a high checkout of 76 – achieved in the very last leg. But exceptional finishing (a checkout rate of just under 65 per cent) meant a 3-2, 3-1, 3-2 whitewashing. He’s the ultimate counter-argument to anyone who says that averages are the be-all and end-all.
Wade’s next assignment is an act of true villainy; removing Steve Beaton from the equation. We’re already reliving the Bronzed Adonis’ glory days here; the last time he was in the third round of the World Darts Championship, Chelsea and Arsenal led the Premier League, and Band Aid 20 topped the charts. It’s probably rude to mention that he automatically qualified for the third round, and was duly knocked out. He’s never actually won two matches consecutively at the Alexandra Palace. We could be on the cusp of history here. If he can capture some of the form shown against Kyle Anderson, particularly the big finishes, he could well do it.
Noppert eyes up Last 16
There’s one mini-section of the draw which has just one seed left. We’ll see Nico Kurz and Luke Humphries later – for now, it’s all about Kim Huybrechts and Danny Noppert. As the seed, Noppert is the favourite to progress on paper. Having made the second round on debut, the Dutchman finds himself two wins from the quarter-finals. Callan Rydz pushed Noppie all the way, but in the end the 31st seed kept his cool while the debutant lost his way.
He comes up against an unseeded player who didn’t take his eye off the prize at any point during a fantastic second round win. Kim Huybrechts simply obliterated Rob Cross, punishing the second seed’s every error. He’ll reflect on an 89.44 average and feel that improvements can be made, but 52 per cent on the checkouts and two ton-plus finishes constitute fine form indeed. His unseeded status is a bit deceptive; he’s trodden the Ally Pally boards many a time, and knows how to win a World Darts Championship game or two. Perhaps it’ll be he who seizes this golden opportunity.
Mighty Mike seeks Rapid win
If you like darting entertainment in which tungsten gets tossed at ferocious speeds, boy, do I have the game for you. Michael van Gerwen’s back in town and, having seen others dominating the headlines, he’s out to remind the watching world that he’s the main event. The defending champion wasn’t at his best in round two; you could say he was rusty, or blinded by hatred. Either way, he dug himself out of a minor self-made mess to progress. Now is where he’ll want to kick on, preferably with a ton-plus average, and stamp his authority on the World Darts Championship.
Ricky Evans would romp home with the title of ‘Most Entertaining Player’; his antics have been the toast of social media. Rapid will outshine van Gerwen, up until darts start being thrown. From that point, he needs to be able to hang onto the world number one’s coattails, and grasp any opportunity he gets. Anything like the big fish he reeled in to send Mark McGeeney packing would be very nice. The young man will know that there’s a place he can go if he wants to bump up his dough. It’s fun to stay at the Ally Pally.
Click here for more information on the PDC World Darts Championship, which takes place at the Alexandra Palace between December 13 and January 1.
PDC World Darts Championship 2020 schedule
Sunday December 22
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
James Wade vs Steve Beaton
Kim Huybrechts vs Danny Noppert
Michael van Gerwen vs Ricky Evans
Author: Ed McCosh