World Championship debutant Rob Cross defeated defending champion Michael van Gerwen in an unbelievable sudden-death leg to set up a final showdown with 16-time world champion Phil Taylor, after prevailing in one of the greatest games in darting history at the Alexandra Palace on Saturday evening.
Van Gerwen squandered six match darts in an absolutely incredible eleven-set thriller, as Cross held his nerve to prevail in a classic. ‘Voltage’ averaged 100.97, fired in fifteen maximums and converted 38% of his attempts at double to seal his place in the final, as Van Gerwen missed an astonishing 58 darts at double, despite averaging 102.44.
Cross drew first blood with a 13-dart hold in a dramatic opening set decider after MvG missed one dart at tops for it, but ‘The Green Machine’ responded superbly; crashing in back-to-back maximums before picking out tops to level in another fifth and final leg.
The pair traded majestic 11-darters in a blistering start to the third, before Cross sank D4 to regain the lead having missed the bull for a 170 outshot earlier in the leg. The former electrician was scoring prolifically and that pattern continued as he crashed in his seventh maximum to round-off a 12-dart hold and move 2-1 ahead.
‘Mighty Mike’ hammered home a classy 105 kill as he attempted to restore parity, but Cross landed his ninth maximum en route to a 12-darter, before producing a nerveless 74 finish to force a set decider. The pressure was firmly on Van Gerwen but he responded; completing a tidy 13-dart hold on tops to level matters at 2-2.
Both men spurned opportunities at double in the early exchanges of the fifth set, but it came alive in a gripping set decider. Van Gerwen crashed in his sixth maximum to leave 81 after 9 darts, but Cross conjured up a magical 161 outshot to seal the set in spectacular fashion.
Nevertheless, Van Gerwen responded magnificently, winning the sixth set to nil with a 118.66 average. He registered successive 13-dart holds including six perfect darts in leg two, before following up his tenth maximum with a sumptuous 12-dart leg to restore parity for the third time in the contest.
Despite this, the World Championship debutant was completely unfazed. He followed up a 15-dart hold by piling in a 177 to complete an 11-dart break, before dispatching a brilliant 126 checkout on D6 to regain the initiative, after MvG had completed a 15-dart hold in the previous leg.
Van Gerwen clinched the eighth set without reply; a clinical 95 finish on the bull sandwiched in between respective holds on D9 and D16. Cross then kicked off the ninth with sublime 13 and 11-dart legs, but the Dutchman reeled off three straight legs to secure the lead for the first time; wrapping up the set with a majestic 12-dart break.
The astonishing standard just continued. For the second straight set ‘Voltage’ registered 13 and 11 darters to open up a 2-0 cushion, but Van Gerwen responded with a two-dart 84 combination. MvG then had a golden chance to break and throw for victory, but he incredibly missed six darts at double as Cross sank D4 to force a deciding set.
Quite simply, the 11th set produced some of the most gripping darts ever seen on the Alexandra Palace stage. Van Gerwen took out a brilliant 84 to hit the front in the decider after Cross missed the bull for a spectacular 170 outshot, but the Englishman levelled on D4 after ‘The Green Machine’ displayed more uncharacteristic profligacy.
The pair then traded 14-dart holds to force a tiebreak, before Cross again fired in a 14-dart leg to pile the pressure on MvG. The Hastings ace left 90 after 9 darts and had a chance to triumph, but he wired the bull for victory as Van Gerwen returned to sink D18 as the drama continued.
Cross wrestled back the initiative after following up a 168 by pinning D10 with his last dart in hand, but Van Gerwen landed a sublime 171 and picked out D18 for a 13-dart hold to make it four apiece in the decider. Cross then spurned two darts at D16 to hold as Van Gerwen claimed a precious 13-dart break via D12, and the end appeared nigh.
However, with victory seemingly in the palm of his hand, the world number one crumbled. He spurned five match darts and Cross sank D18 to force a sudden-death leg. The former electrician won the bullseye but left 140 after 12 darts, with Van Gerwen poised on 108.
Cross almost produced one of the greatest finishes in darting history, missing D16 for the 140. Van Gerwen also found the treble he required, but wired the same target for victory, and that was that. With the partisan Ally Pally crowd roaring on the underdog, Cross returned to pin D8 and secure a spot in the final on his World Championship debut.
Cross will now take on Phil Taylor on New Year’s Day, after ‘The Power’ secured a spot in his 21st World Championship final with a 6-1 victory over preliminary qualifier Jamie Lewis. The Welshman drew first blood before Taylor reeled off six consecutive sets to maintain his astonishing record of having never a lost World Championship semi.
Nevertheless, the match was far more competitive than the scoreline suggests. Lewis had darts to win five of the seven sets but Taylor’s experience paid dividends. ‘The Power’ averaged 100.07, landed five maximums and dispatched 51% of his attempts at double, as Lewis was punished for missing 27 darts at double, despite posting 11 maximums.
Taylor started imperiously, firing in a maximum and a 174 to kick off with 14 and 13-dart legs, but Lewis was completely unfazed; taking out 62 to stay alive in the set, before breaking ‘The Power’ inside 13 darts. The Welshman then had the throw for the set and made no mistake; following up his second maximum by hitting D16 to draw first blood.
Taylor cleaned up a tidy 79 finish and fired in a 13-darter to seal control of the second set, but Lewis landed back-to-back maximums to complete a 13-darter of his own to force another decider. The 26-year-old then piled in his fifth 180 to forge a break opportunity, but spurned one dart at D13 for 2-0 as Taylor squared the match on D8.
The third set was a dramatic affair. The pair exchanged breaks in the opening two legs, before Taylor converted a clinical two-dart 100 combination to force a third consecutive set decider. Lewis crashed in his seventh maximum but spurned three set darts after being heckled by a partisan crowd, which enabled Taylor to steal it on tops.
The Welshman squandered a further three darts at double to kick off the fourth set, but re-gathered himself to lead 2-1. However, he agonisingly wired the bull for a 167 leveller and Taylor capped off a sublime 10-dart leg to square the set, before pinning D8 to extend his lead to 3-1, after Lewis had missed D16 for a 106 checkout.
Lewis was battling valiantly but had spurned darts to win each of the last three sets and his profligacy cost him early on in the fifth, as Taylor opened up a 2-0 lead. ‘Fireball’ stopped the rot with a 13-dart hold, but Taylor wired the bull for a 167 before returning to peg D8 and establish a commanding 4-1 cushion.
The pair exchanged breaks early in set six, before Lewis dispatched a two-dart 74 kill for the third consecutive break. Once again the Welshman had the throw for the set, but Taylor produced a stunning sequence of legs; rattling off successive 12-darters to move to the brink of victory at 5-1.
Lewis crashed in his eleventh maximum as he secured a 2-0 lead in the seventh, but history repeated itself as the 16-time world champion reeled him in. The 26-year-old Welshman missed three darts to reduce the arrears to 5-2 and Taylor converted nerveless 95 and 68 finishes to book his spot in Monday’s final.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
William Hill World Darts Championship
Saturday December 30 (7.30pm)
Jamie Lewis 1-6 Phil Taylor
Michael van Gerwen 5-6 Rob Cross
Best of 11 sets