Friday, 18 February 2011

Premier League 2011 - Night Two

I have to date them now - when I first started this blog, I wasn't sure it'd last a year and didn't bother :o)

For someone like me who's been going cold turkey on (televised) darts since the World Championship Final, last night's Premier League fixture was the sort of dosage that could leave one gibbering and wrapped in bacofoil in the back of an ambulance.

First up was Barney v. Whitlock. The Wizard didn't really do anything wrong, but Barney's performance made 1982 Dom Perignon look un-vintage. At times, it felt like watching a replay of a classic match from yesteryear as Barney played with a confidence, fluency and panache that we haven't seen from him in a long time. Checkouts of 116, 160 and 156, combined with 18 ton plus scores and 14 140 plus scores, saw Barney go through Whitlock like an excrement-laxative combo through a goose. A 141 checkout, accomplished in an almost insultingly casual manner, rounded off a classic match for Barneveld, and completed a crushing 8-3 victory.

Next to step up to the mark were James Wade and Adrian Lewis. Wade needed to prove himself; Lewis was riding high - this was the best sort of match, one that promised fireworks and could go either way. It did not disappoint, with 180s, sub-15 dart legs and ton plus checkouts a go-go. Wade took a commanding lead, but the new World Champ fought his way back into the match in a way that justified his title, 3 ton plus scores giving him two darts at double 18 to secure a draw.

These, he missed, leaving a clearly relieved but magnificently unrattled Wade free to slam in a 136 checkout and take the match 8-6. There were many superb examples of high checkouts in the course of the evening, but to do that with Lewis waiting on double 18 took real bottle and it was a well-earned victory for the Machine.

Then came the second wounded Titan of the evening: Phil Taylor, taking on his World Championship Nemesis Mark Webster. There was something about Taylor's expression during his walk-on that made me think "This man means business"; the way he looked, he could have thrown a dart from backstage and hit the treble 20.

The Power certainly got off to a cracking start, taking the first 3 legs in confident style. There was a sense - certainly at the back of my mind - from the very beginning that a 9 darter could be on the cards. If there had been one, this would probably have gone down as a classic Taylor performance, but sadly it was not to be; on two occasions 5 perfect darts were followed by a 6th that cruelly slipped off the barrel and just out of the treble.

Webster played a full part in making this a great match too; two superb checkouts of 170 and 160 kept him in the match, but in spite of thoroughly respectable stats he just couldn't peg back Taylor, whose match average ended up at 103.87 and at one stage was in excess of 108. The Power said afterwards that he felt was in the right place now; if that means we can look forward to more performances like that, then it can only be a good thing :o)

Last but by no means least came Terry Jenkins and Gary Anderson. The Premier League newbie showed no sign of nerves once again; Jenkins fought, and reduced his deficit to one leg at 4-3, but Anderson showed no signs of slipping up and closed out the match at 8-4 to round of an assured performance. Anderson took out 121 and Jenkins took out 120 to bring the evening's tally of ton plus checkouts to 14 - a remarkable testament to just how high the standard of darts was across the board.

There was one strange moment in this match, when Wayne Mardle declared from the commentary box that Terry Jenkins had "had a couple of loose visits", but it turned out that he meant his darts weren't on target, and not, as my girlfriend and I first thought, that Jenkins was reaching for the Diocalm Ultra :o)

Barney topped the table with 4 ton plus checkouts, followed by Wade on 3, Lewis and Webster on 2, and Whitlock, Anderson and Jenkins with 1 apiece. The only person not to hit one was Taylor, and that wasn't for want of trying - he missed the Bullseye by a margin that could only be recorded by an electron microscope, whilst having a crack at 161. The only thing missing in this darting masterclass was a nine darter - there were a couple of good tries, but no cigar. Still, can't have everything.

All in all, a superb evening of darts, and the Premier league has only just started. Anderson, with 2 wins and 4 points, is out in front; Whitlock is bringing up the rear with no wins and no points. Everyone else is on 2 points and separated only by leg difference - no draws so far.

Can't wait for next week :o)

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