World Darts Championship: Cross knocks out Van Barneveld in compelling clash

Raymond van Barneveld’s hopes of a fairy-tale Alexandra Palace return were curtailed by 2018 champion Rob Cross in a compelling second-round clash at the World Darts Championship on Thursday night.

In the penultimate match before the Christmas break, Cross recovered from an edgy start to dump out the five-time world champion in a fascinating affair.

Van Barneveld was riding the crest of a wave following a raucous welcome from the partisan ‘Barney Army’, and he made a blistering start to send the crowd into raptures, following up a 13-dart break with an inspired 170 finish – the second of the tournament.

The veteran Dutchman spurned seven set darts in a scrappy third leg, but he rectified matters moments later, producing another 13-dart leg on tops to seize the initiative.

‘Voltage’ averaged a paltry 77 in the opening set, but he sparked into life to level up proceedings, following up 68 and 128 finishes with a crucial 93 combination, after Van Barneveld had wired the bull for a 121 kill to level the set.

Barney was scoring magnificently in patches, but his fragility on the outer ring resurfaced at a crucial juncture in set three. The 54-year-old squandered three at double to break Cross in leg three, and although he responded with an 11-darter, Cross kept his cool in a deciding leg to move 2-1 ahead.

Van Barneveld was becoming visibly emotional as the missed opportunities began to take their toll, and despite a change of darts, he was unable to arrest his slide and Cross wrapped up proceedings to book his place in round three.

In the evening’s finale, Chris Dobey set up a mouth-watering third-round meeting with Michael van Gerwen after rallying from two sets down to defeat the impressive Rusty-Jake Rodriguez.

The dimunitive Austrian converted nerveless 88 and 90 combinations in dramatic set deciders to establish a commanding cushion, but Dobey fought back valiantly, averaging 92.78, landing 18 140s and converting 36% of his attempts on the outer ring.

Danny Noppert recovered from a tentative start to overcome Jason Heaver in a scrappy affair. ‘The Freeze’ wasn’t ice-cool in the early stages as Heaver secured a surprise lead, but the Dutchman won the next three legs to triumph with an 88.42 average and five 180s.

Gabriel Clemens will face eighth seed Jonny Clayton for a place in the last 16, after ‘The German Giant’ saw off a struggling Lewy Williams, although the Welshman did have the honour of throwing the 1,000,000th dart in PDC World Championship history midway through set three.

Afternoon Round-Up

Earlier in the day, seventh seed Jose De Sousa survived a major scare, fighting back from 2-0 down to defeat Jason Lowe, who dumped out Michael Smith at the same stage of last year’s event.

Lowe converted three ton-plus finishes and stormed to the opening set with a 108 average, but ‘The Special One’ showed his class in the latter stages, reeling off eight of the final nine legs and sealing the deal with a sublime 124 checkout.

De Sousa will play Alan Soutar in the third round, after the Scot also fought back from two sets down to stun 26th seed Mensur Suljovic, who squandered EIGHT match darts in an extraordinary tussle.

The Austrian appeared to be cruising to victory after winning eight of the first nine legs, but he fluffed his lines in the latter stages, before Soutar conjured up an inspired 144 match-winning checkout to complete the comeback.

Callan Rydz will play Nathan Aspinall in a fascinating third round clash, after producing one of the best televised performances of his career to dispatch Brendan Dolan in straight sets, averaging 102.73 and converting 64% of his double attempts.

Elsewhere, Damon Heta punished a disappointing doubling display from Luke Woodhouse to set up a showdown with world No 2 Peter Wright, averaging 94.65 and registering two ton-plus outshots.

Image Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

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