Jermaine Wattimena and Joe Cullen served up a treat as the Dutchman won a thrilling World Championship first round tie 3-2 at the Ally Pally. Cullen missed a match dart in the final set before Wattimena took the spoils in one of the best first round clashes in recent memory.
Those who sneaked out for a quick beer completely missed a first set that was over in just a few short minutes. With Cullen starting in sluggish fashion, Wattimena sandwiched a break of through between two comfortable holds to get off to the perfect start. ‘Machine Gun’ notched up a 177 and was solid on his doubles, but did not have to withstand any pressure from the seeded player. A 52 checkout was enough to put the Dutchman one third of the way toward victory in 270 seconds of play.
Both Cullen and Wattimena missed darts at a ton-plus finish at the start of the second set, before the former nailed double four to edge ahead. The Bradford prodigy was getting into his stride, a fact proven by his first 180, piled in halfway through the second leg of the set. Cullen breezed in a 135 checkout to seal the second leg, hitting the bull before a treble 19-double 14 combination. Just as Wattimena whitewashed Cullen in double-quick time, so did the Rockstar, and the Dutchman’s momentum was cancelled out emphatically.
Cullen was starting to show the sort of form he displayed in a memorable victory over Corey Cadby in last year’s World Championship. He opened the third set with a second maximum of the night, but Wattimena showed his class to save his throw with a 111 checkout. With both players throwing quickly and fluently, the match had a frantic but high-quality feel to it. Cullen held throw with a 13-darter to level in the set and threatened Wattimena’s throw once again, but the Machine Gun rattled in the necessary double 16. He then found a timely first 180 to pile the pressure on Cullen, leaving himself 122. Cullen, adrift on 145, missed a dart at double 14, and thought his chance was gone. Yet Wattimena could not find the double 10. The Rockstar did not need a second invitation. Double seven landed, the set was taken to a concluding leg. Wattimena had the darts, and it proved to be vital. A Cullen 180 meant a 70 checkout had to be taken, and the Dutchman didn’t disappoint.
Set four started with another Cullen maximum and a 66 checkout, before another assault on the treble 20 bed gave the Bradford man a chance to break with a 130 finish. He took that chance, finishing on the bull to go 2-0 up in legs. Needing an 84 out to force a deciding set, Cullen landed the bull once more. The pressure was on, and it told. Wattimena missed two darts at double 12, allowing Cullen to punish with tops and break straight away. Not to be deterred, Wattimena struck a 140 before a roof-raising 141 finish broke Cullen back. The big scores were coming thick and fast. A 140 and a ton set tops up for Cullen and, after Wattimena failed to have a dart at a double when on 84, double 10 was enough for match point. On 160 to win the match, Cullen landed both trebles but missed the double. Wattimena handed him three more darts with which to win, but Cullen failed to take his chance. The Dutchman was not interested in handing out any more opportunities.
And so the tie became the first of the World Championships to need extending beyond four sets and four legs. A ruthless 70 out gave Wattimena the advantage, before Cullen’s scoring abandoned him at the start of the sixth leg. Wattimena piled on the pressure with a 180, and did what Cullen couldn’t. Double 16 sparked a wild celebration and left Cullen reeling, as Wattimena sealed a second round clash with Steve West.

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Author: Ed McCosh