European Championship 2020 preview and schedule: Friday 30 October afternoon session, including De Sousa, Petersen and Aspinall
What a bumper first day of the European Championship that was.
Michael van Gerwen, Gerwyn Price and Peter Wright posted the highest averages in an ominous start from the world's top three. They all ended up basking in Jose de Sousa's shadow, of course. More on the Portuguese sensation later. Shock exits for the likes of Krzysztof Ratajski and Rob Cross added further headlines, and Friday should provide more as the European Championship progresses to best-of-19 ties.
It already feels like a week ago that Jamie Hughes won out in a thriller against Dave Chisnall. Surviving a match dart and then throwing an 11-darter to win is the sort of dead-eyed ruthlessness that takes players a long way. It's just what Hughes has been lacking in the big stage PDC events, and gives him the chance to make real waves in Oberhausen.
Next up for the Black Country star is not the number one seed. Joe Cullen's gone, unfortunately not producing the sort of performance that earned him top billing here. His loss is William O'Connor's gain, and if the Magpie can steal victory away from Hughes, he'll be in his second big stage quarter-final.
Devon Petersen has had a transformative 2020. Nobody has ever doubted that the African Warrior has a stacked arsenal, but it hasn't been enough for him to be a hot tip for tournaments. That's changed now, and a 6-1 domination of Andy Hamilton was the ideal way for Petersen to establish his European Championship credentials.
Martijn Kleermaker's win over Rob Cross is a big shock on paper, especially given the big Dutchman's relative infancy in PDC darts. But, between Cross' sub-standard season and the big Dutchman's obvious class, it's not a gob-smacking moment. Kleermaker, like Petersen, plays at a brisk pace and tends to score well. This could end up being an explosive encounter.
And speaking of explosive; Jose de Sousa, you've done it again. The big challenge facing Portugal's darting talisman this year was making himself known to darts fans who don't pay close attention to PDC TV or DartConnect. Knocking in a nine-darter against Jeffrey de Zwaan has ticked that box. Now his goal is going all the way and adding fuel to his ascendancy into the PDC top echelon.
Nowadays, there are loads of players who have a strong claim to that very objective, and Jonny Clayton's one of them. His see-saw encounter with Max Hopp was possibly the tie of the day, among stiff competition. You can't help but wonder how things would've gone in front of a packed German crowd, but you'd imagine that Clayton would've been fine. He's a cool customer, and even a red-hot De Sousa won't faze the Ferret.
In today's edition of "What, you again?!" - it's Nathan Aspinall versus James Wade. The pair met in the third round of the Belgian Darts Championship, then again at the European Darts Grand Prix, and then at the International Darts Open. Aspinall leads 2-1 across their European Tour epic, but Wade came out on top last time out.
Neither of them were that happy with their Thursday showings - Aspinall in particular, who struggled to get to grips with the slightly haunting atmosphere of an almost-empty König Pilsener Arena. But that's a good sign, rather than a bad one. The Asp's angst just shows that he thrives under the spotlight. Wade's behaviour may be unpredictable, but he's cut from the same cloth when it comes to forging diamond-standard performances under pressure. A lot of the Thursday games went the distance, and you'd imagine that this one will too.
European Championship 2020 schedule
Friday October 30
12:00 William O'Connor v Jamie Hughes
13:00 Devon Petersen v Martijn Kleermaker
14:00 Jose De Sousa v Jonny Clayton
15:00 Nathan Aspinall v James Wade