Occasionally in sport we hear a draw referred to as a bit like ‘kissing your sister’ i.e. not good or bad, nor in any way exciting or fun. Thankfully in darts, they are a normally rare occurrence. But three tournaments into the new Premier League Darts season and there has already been three, to highlight how tight the margins are between the top stars of the oche.
After the tournaments in Newcastle, Nottingham and Leeds, not one player boasts a 100 percent winning record, with defending champion Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor and James Wade jointly sharing the lead at the top of the Premier League Darts table on five points apiece.
There was nothing to separate Van Gerwen and Gary Anderson on the opening night in Newcastle as the replay of this year’s World Championship ended 6-6, the Dutchman saving his bacon by taking the final leg after Anderson had brought the house down and taken control of the match with a 130 checkout.
In Nottingham, the first match of the night, a Lowlands derby between Belgium’s Kim Huybrechts and 2014 Premier League champion Raymond van Barneveld, ended all-square, before James Wade and Phil Taylor had to settle for a point apiece in the penultimate game of the night.
So, as the Premier League goes south to Brighton for the fourth leg, on February 23, who’s odds will go the same way?
Taylor’s self-assuredness is back after a 7-4 win over his old rival Barneveld in Leeds and the double-figure odds about him winning the competition for a seventh time look generous for a player who’s eye of the tiger, and appetite for the kill, appears as sharply focused as it was when he last won the title in 2012. Even with the availability of these online guides from SBAT, fans may be tempted to take a punt straight off with bookmakers pricing him at 12/1 for the win.
Yes, his three-dart average was below 100 (96.39) and he only managed to check out with a third of his attempts at doubles but the way he took the game by the scruff of the neck in the middle of the match, after the first six legs went with the throw, suggest the ruthlessness within him still burns brightly in this his final season on the circuit.
World No.3 Peter Wright also fired out a strong message to his rivals that he wants to be noticed for his ability not just his flamboyant appearance. Wright stunned Anderson and delighted the 8,000-strong crowd at the First Direct Arena in Leeds with three consecutive ton-plus finishes, before adding a fourth, on his way to a 7-5 victory.
Wright’s clash with van Barneveld looks the pick of the match-ups in Brighton, and probably the hardest to predict. They last meeting at this level in 2016 ended all-square, while Wright claimed a 7-5 victory earlier in the year.
With van Gerwen and Taylor favourites to beat an out-of-sorts Adrian Lewis and Huybrechts respectively, James Wade will probably need to end a run of three straight defeats against indomitable Scot Anderson to keep apace at the top of the table, while the remaining match in round four sees Dave Chisnall take on Jelle Klaasen.
Enigmatic Klaasen is the only player without a point to his name at this stage of the season, as inconsistency continues to bedevil the player whose ability is without question. He broke countryman van Gerwen in leg five, throwing 180, 134 and 147 to leave 40, which he took out in two darts for an 11-dart leg. But his overall average for the match was below 100 and of 14 attempts at a double, only four hit the target. Too hit-and-miss at this level, Klaasen needs to seriously up his game if he wants to break his duck in Brighton.