One of Rob Cross or Michael Smith is about to become the ninth player to win the PDC World Matchplay.
Larry Butler, Phil Taylor, Peter Evison, Rod Harrington, Colin Lloyd, James Wade, Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson have lifted the trophy before. We know for sure that the World Matchplay will change hands four times in a row for the first time. But will Rob Cross add a title to his World Championship crown? Or is this finally the big moment for Michael Smith?
Tournament average: 99.19
Tournament doubles success rate: 43.90%
Rob Cross could be about to prove how ridiculous the ‘one hit wonder’ label given to him by his critics is.
The 2018 world champion has been the runner-up at the Premier League Darts, European Championship and UK Open. It was the latter of those three lost finals that hurt the most. Badly fatigued after a long weekend, the hero of Hastings suffered his own 1066 moment; Nathan Aspinall profited from it.
Lessons were learned, and Cross has worked hard to become the player who has lit up the World Matchplay. Chris Dobey and Krzysztof Ratajski, two players of genuine class, had no answer to Voltage’s barrage.
Stephen Bunting came oh-so-close, but again Cross prevailed. Then came Daryl Gurney, and the semi-final that would’ve ended most players’ chances for good. But not for Cross.
An all-time great comeback showed the sort of grit that Cross couldn’t muster back in Minehead. All the signs point to someone who is in top shape, both physically and mentally. He’s the favourite, and has been since Michael van Gerwen went tumbling out. Can anyone stop Cross now?
There’s one man who hopes he can.
Tournament average: 98.17
Tournament doubles success rate: 41.35%
Michael Smith has about 150,002 reasons to make sure he comes out on top on Sunday. For one, there’s a record World Matchplay winner’s pot of £150,000. The Phil Taylor Trophy – and a place in the history books – is another motivator. And for Smith, this represents an opportunity to shake off an unfortunate tag.
For too long, the St Helens thrower has been the bridesmaid, and not the bride. He is blessed with remarkable talent and a smooth-as-silk throwing style, but has come unraveled at many a key moment.
During the World Matchplay this year, Smith has shown no sign of relenting. Jamie Hughes and Max Hopp threatened, but were dealt with. Then sustained bursts of excellence made sure that Mervyn King and Glen Durrant saw their chances snuffed out ruthlessly.
If Smith can do to Cross what Gurney did on Saturday, he would have the title in the palm of his hand. The question then is whether he can do what the Northern Irishman couldn’t, and push himself over the finish line.
Almost seven months on from his World Championship bid ending at the final hurdle, perhaps this is the moment we say goodbye to perennial runner-up Michael Smith, and hello to bona fide major champion Michael Smith. Sunday could be a career-defining day.
A close call
Anyone who says that they’re 100 per cent sure who’s going to be holding the Phil Taylor Trophy come Sunday night is lying.
Both Cross and Smith have had their ups and downs. They’ve put in some stunning performances, and also shown weaknesses. And there is no doubt that both have the quality to win in style.
Their head-to-head record may offer some insight. From 15 competitive meetings, 12 have been won by Cross. Voltage beat the Bully Boy twice in the Premier League this year, also claiming superiority in the 2019 UK Open semi-finals. When the pair met at the World Championship in late 2017, Cross again came out on top.
That Ally Pally showdown was an absolute classic. What we’d give to see that again – and what Smith would give to reverse his fortunes.
Looking at the Futures
What does the PDC World Matchplay have in common with American Football? Apart from the plentiful supply of beer, of course. We’re looking a little beyond the darts to give betting enthusiasts a pointer at one of the hottest futures market in sports betting. Take a good look right here on College Football Futures. Betting at the time is good, but nailing a prediction months in advance is even more impressive. Anyone who backed Glen Durrant in January can attest to that one.
Click here for more information about the World Matchplay, including the prize money breakdown, schedule and format.
19:15 Rob Cross vs Michael SmithTags: Michael Smith, PDC, Rob Cross
Author: Ed McCosh