You know that sensation that there's something not quite right with the world? And you know the sense of relief when you realise that the world has been put right again and everything's back to normal?
That was my sensation when Phil Taylor carved Ronnie Baxter up like a Christmas Turkey, extinguishing the Rocket by 10 legs to 1. To be fair to Baxter, he didn't actually throw that badly: his scoring stats were much the same as Phil's, and he had an average over 90. Against anyone apart from an in-form Phil Taylor he might have achieved, if not a victory, a more respectable result, but the Power was back to his utterly ruthless best and when Baxter made the slightest slip up on his doubles Taylor stepped in to take the leg. It was a match played in great humour, which after Ted Hankey's match with Steve Beaton (of which more anon.) was really good to see, and I felt sorry for Baxter exiting the tournament like that, but boy did it feel good to see Taylor playing like that again :o)
Now then, Ted Hankey v. Steve Beaton. Hankey went 3-0 up with some terrific shooting, but things went downhill from there as Steve Beaton showed some of the form of his life to close out the match 10-6. What marked this match for me was Hankey's reaction to the crowd. After a period of relations with the crowd which, by Hankey's usual standards, could be said to constitute a love-in, the Count got some stick from the crowd and exploded at them, both on the stage and in the post-match interview.
Ted Hankey's a great darts player and a good man, but he is in many ways his own worst enemy when it comes to the crowd. Granted, crowds do tend to give him more stick than many other players (Mervyn King being one exception), but Hankey just doesn't seem to realise how popular he actually is. When the cameras panned over the audience, many people were cheering for him and waving placards with supportive messages written on them; he has a lot of fans. But when Hankey hears booing from some parts of the audience and turns round to give them stick back, he doesn't seem to see the (large) part of the audience that is wholeheartedly on his side. This is a great shame, because if Hankey could put his supporters at the front of his mind instead of his detractors, who he showed this week can be silenced by playing cracking darts, he really could be one of the greats.
Co Stompe showed more terrific form to take down Colin 'Jaws' Lloyd by 10 legs to 4. Co Stompe is a great player and a great character who's never won a televised major, and I hope he goes a long way in this tournament.
That just leaves Waites v. van Barneveld, which as both players admitted was not a match will live long in the annals of the sport, but then again it's a very long tournament with a lot of darts, and very few players can be on absolutely scintillating form every match they play (heck, even Phil Taylor was off the boil a bit early on due to specs issues). Waites overcame a Barney who by the end just looked like he wanted to put the whole sorry affair behind him by 10 legs to 7 to win his place in the quarter finals, leaving him the last BDO player in the Grand Slam.
Right, time for me to go shopping :o)