As the New Year begins, we are set to crown a new champion of the tungsten world but will it be a first-time winner or the retiring veteran?
Rob Cross fought valiantly throughout his Semi-Final, which went past midnight into New Year’s Eve, as the match went to an 11th set and a sudden death leg for the ultimate darting drama.
Defending champion and world number one Michael van Gerwen spurned match darts to defeat ‘Voltage’ but the World Championship debutant held it together to hit D8 to reach his first major final.
What a year it’s been for the former electrician, who won his first prize money as a tour cardholder in February. He’s now added £296,000 to that total in the past 11 months and will climb into the top ten of the Order of Merit.
The 27-year-old is the real deal. He’s averaging just a shade over a ton (100.93), leads the way in 180s hit with 55 and his clutch doubling is some of the best around.
Not only are those traits positive but also his cover shooting on the treble 19 is another strength to his game.
Rob Cross Route to Final:
R1: 3-0 Seigo Asada
R2: 4-3 Michael Smith
R3: 4-1 John Henderson
QF: 5-4 Dimitri van den Bergh
SF: 6-5 Michael van Gerwen
Three of those matches are up there for the game of the tournament and Cross survived match darts as earlier as the Second Round against Michael Smith, but once again showed those qualities to dig-in.
When it comes to stats this season, Cross is up there for a lot of them. He leads the way on bullseye checkout percentage (31.7%) and 100+ checkout percentage (15.1%) out of the players in the Top 32 plus he’s up there for a number of other categories.
We saw that bullseye stat come to the fore in the Semi-Final when taking out 161 to go 3-2 up after MvG had just hit a maximum to leave himself 81 for the set – such a pivotal checkout!
He’s now proved himself against the best of the current crop but can he do it against the best of all-time?
Phil Taylor needs no introduction really for his final walk to the Alexandra Palace oche.
It’ll be an emotional night as the 16-time world champion looks to bow out in style after coming through relatively unscathed so far.
‘The Power’ has dropped just five sets but that could have been more if Jamie Lewis took the chances that came his way in their Semi-Final but the Welshman failed with Taylor punishing.
Phil Taylor Route to Final:
R1: 3-1 Chris Dobey
R2: 4-0 Justin Pipe
R3: 4-0 Keegan Brown
QF: 5-3 Gary Anderson
SF: 6-1 Jamie Lewis
This will be Taylor’s 21st World Darts Championship Final; he has won 16 of those with the first of those coming back in January 1990 – the year Rob Cross was born!
That shows the longevity of the 57-year-old, who has been able to perform to the highest level of the sport for a sustained period of time.
A 99.79 average, 26 maximums hit and the best stat of the lot is his checkout success rate at 52%.
In his last four matches, that checkout percentage has been at 50% or higher showing that he often punishes opponents if they give him the chance, so the outer ring of the board will be critical for whose comes out victorious tonight.
Taylor hasn’t played enough on the tour in 2017 to lead any of the key statistics but when he won his 16th World Matchplay title his combination finishing was deadly and that killed off his opponents mentally.
If ‘The Power’ is as ruthless with three darts in hand on the finishes tonight then it could be a long evening for the darting debutant.
The traders aren’t giving too much away with the vast majority of bookies. Tournament sponsors William Hill go 5/6 Phil Taylor and EVS Rob Cross.
I think that’s about right and believe Taylor’s experience of the big occasion will count for a lot.
Cross has been involved in a few gruelling matches and what is left in the tank? Both players had yesterday off but with Taylor having the right routine and less time on stage then the man from Stoke looks set to be the fresher of the two.
I think there will be at least 11 sets here and Taylor to Win & Both Players to Win 4 or More Sets (17/10 – William Hill) would be the first way I’d play this Final.
Taylor has had that steely determination so far and he does the right thing at the right moments. If there are any slack visits from Cross then they’ll be capitalised on and that’s where Taylor could thrive.
Cross can win this because his scoring has been phenomenal. He leads the way in 180s hit with 55 and if hitting those big scores then he’ll find his way down to the doubles first.
Taylor has been straying into the 1 and 5 beds a little too often at times plus the thickness of his barrels make it difficult for him to score too many maximums. Therefore Cross -4.5 180s (10/11 – Sky Bet) looks a very fair bet because I can see ‘Voltage’ hitting eight or nine more maximums than Taylor.
When it comes down to it this looks worthy of a few quid – Taylor to Win, Cross Most 180s & Cross Highest Checkout (9/2 – Sky Bet). Cross has hit the most 180s of the two and holds the highest checkout with a 164 compared to Taylor’s high of 126.
Those are two areas that Cross will have to be good to match the veteran here but I reckon that the retiring legend will be too strong. If pushed for a correct score prediction, I’d go 7-5 at 7/1.
We’ve got two players who both like D16, so that will be the main aim throughout the game, so ‘Checkout Colour’ Green in-play would be an angle to take while D16 Match Winning Double (3/1 – Ladbrokes) is short enough but one where you’d expect both players to concentrate on for the winning moment.
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