Raymond van Barneveld defied a staggering fifteen maximums from Stephen Bunting to prevail in an epic World Championship second-round contest at the Alexandra Palace on Sunday evening.
Van Barneveld, who became a grandfather to Mason in the early hours of Sunday morning, produced five sensational ton-plus checkouts to defeat Bunting at the Ally Pally for the second year in succession. This victory sets up a tantalising last 16 clash against World Number 1 Michael van Gerwen.
However, the Five-Time World Champion didn’t enjoy an ideal start, as he was plagued by double-trouble in the opening set. Van Barneveld converted just one double from ten attempts, enabling ‘The Bullet’ to clinch the first set.
Nevertheless, the 48-year-old from Den Haag delivered an emphatic response, winning the second set without reply. He took out 101 to win the second leg, and levelled up proceedings with D14 for a 15-darter.
Barney took out a magnificent 103 finish to claim the opening leg of set three, in spite of Bunting posting two maximums in the leg. Yet, the St Helen’s ace recovered superbly, breaking throw with a clinical 72 checkout, before hitting his eighth maximum en route to reclaiming his one-set advantage.
Bunting, the 2014 Lakeside Champion, won his fourth consecutive leg after taking out 70, and he appeared to have the momentum.
Despite this, van Barneveld’s composure and impeccable timing proved critical in the fourth set. He took out a nerveless 74 to restore parity in the set, before the veteran Dutchman produced brilliant 121 and 96 finishes to level up proceedings at two sets apiece.
All four sets had gone against throw, and the pattern seemed destined to continue with Bunting threatening a break in the third leg of the fifth set. However, van Barneveld produced a moment of sheer class, taking out a majestic 131 to maintain his slender advantage.
The set went to a fifth and deciding leg, although van Barneveld held his nerve. The Dutchman posted three successive 140’s, before converting 81 for a classy 12-dart finish, to secure the lead in sets for the first time in the contest.
Bunting responded impressively, winning the sixth set without reply thanks to a flurry of maximums, to force a nail-biting last set decider. The first two legs of the seventh set were shared, before a dramatic third leg ensued.
After a mediocre start to the leg, Bunting posted successive 180’s to leave D20 after just 12 darts. Van Barneveld was sat on 71, but he converted his solitary dart at D20 to maintain his advantage. Given the context of the situation, this was a magnificent finish, which was reflected in Barney’s emotional reaction.
In the following leg, the 30-year-old from St Helens hit his fifteenth maximum to level up the set and force a dramatic tie-break. ‘The Bullet’ almost secured a crucial break, wiring the bull for a 127 finish; van Barneveld capitalised, taking out D12.
Bunting’s scoring had been absolutely sensational for much of the evening, but in the sixth leg, the T20 bed evaded him, which van Barneveld inevitably punished. After Stephen was unable to produce an inspired 170 checkout, Raymond returned to post D20 to seal an incredible win.
After coming through his gruelling second-round tie, the Dutchman admitted: “I think that was one of the weirdest games of my career. I think I’m the lucky one tonight, because Stephen should have won.”
Nevertheless, Raymond deserves immense credit for the tenacity and character he showed this evening. He was clearly tired after an emotionally draining 24 hours, but his experience and desire were the critical factors in his triumph.
Van Barneveld will face his compatriot Michael van Gerwen on Tuesday evening, after the 26-year-old from Boxtel cruised to an imperious straight-sets victory over Darren Webster. Van Gerwen averaged 109.23, hitting six maximums and boasting a 67% checkout ratio.
Van Gerwen cruised to the opening set with a 117 finish, with his average in excess of 109! He continued his dominance in the second set, taking out 121 and 136 finishes en route to extending his advantage.
Darren Webster halted van Gerwen’s run of eight straight legs, finally opening his account midway through the third set, but MvG wasn’t perturbed, as he posted a stunning 12-darter to move to the cusp of victory.
‘The Green Machine’ hit an incredible 160 checkout to open his account in the fourth set, before closing out the win with a 13-darter and then a 15-darter. Darren Webster only won the solitary leg, although his performance merited more.
Elsewhere, James Wade cruised through to the last 16 of the World Championships with a routine 4-0 victory over a struggling Wes Newton. Wade was terrific in the opening two sets, averaging just over 100 and missing just one dart at double.
Yet, ‘The Machine’ appeared to lose focus towards the latter stages of the third set and he suddenly became embroiled in a scrap. Newton won his first leg in the third set, whilst ‘The Warrior’ also missed one dart at D20 to win the fourth set.
However, Wade eventually closed out a straight-sets victory by converting his favoured D10. Wes really struggled for consistency throughout, although he raised his level considerably in the fourth.
Earlier in the afternoon, Michael Smith, Benito van de Pas and Vincent van der Voort all sealed their respective last 16 spots.
Smith beat 1996 Lakeside World Champion Steve Beaton in Sunday afternoon’s opener. ‘Bully-Boy’ recovered from 1-0 down to close out a mightily impressive 4-2 victory, with an average of over 100.
Smith will play Benito van de Pas in Tuesday’s third-round clash, after van de Pas defeated fellow youngster Dimitri van den Bergh in the last 32.
Van den Bergh claimed the opening set, but with the encounter evenly poised at 2-2, ‘Big Ben’ struck to win the final two sets and reach the last 16 stage for the second consecutive year.
Another Dutchman who secured his last 16 spot was Vincent van der Voort, who came from 2-0 down to defeat Kyle Anderson in a gripping battle.
The Australian missed D19 for a marvellous 158 checkout and a 3-2 lead, but ultimately, Vincent’s experience and ruthlessness paid dividends, as the ‘Dutch Destroyer’ sealed a 4-2 victory with a majestic 134 finish.
Tomorrow, 16-Time World Champion Phil Taylor takes on Kevin Painter in a repeat of their 2004 World Championship final, whilst Adrian Lewis continues his assault for a third World title against Andrew Gilding.