There’s a gap on the World Matchplay trophy, onto which a new name is about to be inscribed.

Three former champions – Michael van Gerwen, James Wade and Gary Anderson – are all out. Now we’re down to the semi-finals, the battle for World Matchplay domination is coming to a head. Seeds two, three and five have all battled their way through to the final four. Then there’s one unseeded outlier, out to upset all the odds. Even though the temperatures are dropping outside, things inside the Winter Gardens are just heating up.

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Cross takes challenge on the Chin

Despite the fact that Rob Cross has completely avoided meeting any seeds, he has had a seriously tough run. Chris Dobey, Krzysztof Ratajski and Stephen Bunting have all tried their level best to end the 28-year-old’s title tilt. Cross has dealt with them all.

He’s the rightful favourite from this point. In his win over Bunting, Cross threw a tournament high 13 maximums and two ton-plus checkouts, including a 170. But the real piece de resistance was at 14-14, with the tie in the balance. Voltage could’ve folded, but instead won the next two legs in just 23 darts. That is, without a doubt, the stuff that champions are made of.

Daryl Gurney’s also a TV title winner who knows how to cross the finish line. The World Grand Prix and Players Championship Finals winner wasn’t backed by many to beat Peter Wright, and yet a superb performance saw him overcome the PDC’s most in-form player.

Superchin has constantly adapted to put in the performance needed to win. His average went up a full 8.42 points per visit from a second round win over Keegan Brown. And none of the other semi-finalists managed close to the 52 per cent success rate on doubles that the Northern Irishman managed in the quarter-finals.

Gurney is aware that Cross has more firepower – but if he holds on and takes key chances, like against Wright, he could reach a first World Matchplay final.

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

The Duzza fairytale continues

When Glen Durrant turned up to the World Matchplay, he was immediately installed as the favourite against two-time champion and 16th seed Adrian Lewis. Bear in mind that this was ahead of the Middlesbrough ace’s first ever Blackpool visit. That backing was the mark of the respect the darting world at large has for the 48-year-old.

Even his most ardent supporters are living out a dream scenario right now. First Lewis was pummeled into submission. Then Michael van Gerwen, the PDC world champion, fell at Durrant’s hands. Another man who has tasted World Matchplay glory departed as Durrant cruised past James Wade, in the most comfortable quarter-final win of the round.

The fairytale journey isn’t showing signs of stopping.

Michael Smith’s got his own narrative to pursue, however. The 2019 World Championship runner-up has a golden opportunity to claim the major title that has evaded him for so long. From a point where his confidence was rock-bottom, the Bully Boy keeps finding himself in promising positions at majors.

What’s the key to winning that elusive trophy? The answer may lie on the outer ring of the board. There’s one particular leg from his win against Mervyn King that struck a chord with amateurs all over the world – but Smith is no amateur.

After falling victim to cruel fortune many times before, Smith needs that killer instinct to dash Durrant’s dreams and give himself a chance to land the £150,000 top prize.

Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Photo: Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Bet better

As always, the World Matchplay has upset the odds at times. But shrewd bettors have done well by backing Cross, Gurney, Durrant and Smith. Soon the tournament will be over, and you may be looking for other ways to spice up your sport, even if it’s away from the oche. There are sites available like to beginners and experienced punters alike, offering tips and guides to make them into market masters. Apparently, there’s top sport across the pond that isn’t the US Darts Masters. Who knew?

Click here for more information about the World Matchplay, including the prize money breakdown, schedule and format.

19:15 Rob Cross v Daryl Gurney
21:00 Glen Durrant v Michael Smith

Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Photo: Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

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Author: Ed McCosh