This week’s Premier League action promises to be another action-packed evening of darts. And the five matches have a lot to live up to after last week’s opening round of fixtures in Aberdeen included a draw, two 7-5 results and a maximum checkout. Nottingham plays host to the second round of fixtures which will see Fallon Sherrock make her Premier League debut after reaching the third round of the World Championships in December. Charlie Mullan analyses this week’s fixtures.
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First up, Rob Cross (6/4) takes on Nathan Aspinall (23/20). Cross showed signs of returning to the form expected of the 2019 World Champion when he drew his opening match 6-6 with Gerwyn Price. Cross finished the night with an average 100.10, which was second only to defending Premier League champion Michael Van Gerwen. Cross was left disappointed letting slip a 6-4 lead against the Welshman who hit a 130 checkout to make it 6-5 before securing the draw with a 13-dart leg.
Aspinall was the man of the opening night in his match against local hero John Henderson. Henderson was punished for a slow start and once ahead, Aspinall grew in confidence to mark his Premier League debut with a 7-3 win. The highlight of the match came when with Henderson on the verge of moving to within a leg of Aspinall, the Englishman landed a maximum 170 checkout. Cross and Aspinall have met five times before with Cross leading the head-to-head 3-2, but Aspinall has won the last two meetings including their US Darts Masters quarter-final in Las Vegas before going on to win the tournament.
Gerwyn Price (5/6) and Michael Smith (2/1) meet in the second match of the evening with both players looking for their first win of the competition. Price came from 6-4 down to earn a draw against Rob Cross while Smith suffered a 7-3 defeat to Glen Durrant. If recent meetings are any indication as to how this match will go, then the smart money would be on world number three Price winning his fourth successive match over Smith. However, in the Premier League,Smith holds a 2-1 advantage.
In Rotterdam last year, Smith took the win 7-5 before Price put on a show for his fans in Cardiff after the tournament’s Judgement Night to win 8-5 even though Smith had the better three-dart average. Smith will be looking to get back to winning ways after taking the runner-up spot in last year’s Premier League. Smith’s odds following his opening night defeat have gone from 18/1 to 22/1.
There’s an all-Scottish battle in the middle fixture as Gary Anderson (8/5) and world champion Peter Wright (11/10) take to the oche. The pair were team-mates as Scotland won the World Cup of darts for the first time ever. Wright lost his opening game to Michael Van Gerwen 7-5 which will have gone some way to losing the World Championship final on New Year’s Day. Van Gerwen ended the opening match with the best average of the night of 104.13 which Wright could not match.
The Dutchman showed great composure to recover from a slow start that saw him trail 2-0 only to land with checkouts of 120 and 106 to take control of the match. Anderson got his campaign off to a winning start with a 7-5 victory over Northern Ireland’s Daryl Gurney. The two-time Premier League champion was close to defeat trailing 5-4, but the former world champion stepped up his game to win the match with legs of 13, 12 and 12 darts. This will be the tenth meeting between the Scottish pair in the Premier League with Anderson holding a 5-2 lead with two draws included. Nobody hit more 180s than Wright who hit four in his win defeat to Van Gerwen who also hit four maximums.
The fourth match of the night will see challenger Fallon Sherrock (23/4) take on Glen Durrant (5/19). The pair missed out on playing each other in the World Championships in December after Sherrock’s ground-breaking run came to an end when she lost to Chris Dobey who then lost to Durrant in the fourth round. Sherrock’s victories over Ted Evetts and Mensur Suljovic made headlines worldwide and earned praise from the likes of equal rights activist Billie Jean King.
Sherrock handled the pressure of the World Championships with the minimum of fuss and she will no doubt take her Premier League debut in her stride. While she and the other challengers can not earn points if they win or draw, victory for Sherrock will raise her profile even further. Durrant knows he will not only be up against a very good darts player in Sherrock, but he will also be facing a partizan crowd who will want to see history made. Durrant missed just two throws at doubles in his 7-3 win over Michael Smith and he might have to be just as ruthless against Sherrock if he is to start his campaign with two wins from two.
The final match of the night will see Daryl Gurney (19/4) take on the four-time reigning champion Michael Van Gerwen (10/31). Gurney is looking to bounce back from his opening night 7-5 loss to Gary Anderson while the Dutchman beat Peter Wright by the same score. Gurney knows on his day he can beat the three-time world champion. He did that twice in last year’s Premier League. In Berlin, Gurney won 7-5 while in Manchester ‘SuperChin’ won 8-5. On both occasions, Gurney finished the match with a slightly better average than his opponent, but it was a different story when it mattered – in the play-offs.
In the best of 19 legs, Van Gerwen was always in control of their semi-final which he won 10-7 before going on to beat Rob Cross in the final to collect his fourth successive Premier League title and fifth overall. Gurney needs to get off to a fast start and hope he can keep his opponent at bay in the latter stages of the match. In Gurney’s two Premier League wins over Van Gerwen last year, he averaged over 95 and he will need to be scoring like that, or better, if he is to get his first win of this year’s competition.
Nathan Aspinall to have highest match checkout against Rob Cross @ 5/6
Gerwyn Price (-1.5) @ 50/57
Peter Wright over 3.5 180s @ 10/11
Fallon Sherrock (+3.5) @ 20/27
Michael Van Gerwen over 3.5 180s @ 27/20