Premier League Darts now hits its second week with the World Championships, which saw Rob Cross claim his first major title, fast becoming a distant memory.
The world’s biggest players – minus departing legend Phil Taylor – kicked off their campaign in Dublin at the start of month and will do battle over a 16-week slugfest of top-class darts action.
Michael van Gerwen, who lost to Rob Cross in the World Championship semi-final at London’s Alexandra Palace last month, got sweet revenge over the Englishman in the first round with a crushing victory to launch his Premier League title defence.
Gary Anderson went down to Michael Smith, who returned after finishing bottom in 2016, throwing away a 5-1 lead including 10 missed doubles in one leg alone. Anderson’s recurring back injury handed Smith a remarkable victory and the Scot may continue to struggle in the coming weeks if his health woes continue.
Champion of 2014 Raymond van Barneveld clawed back the last three legs of his match against Grand Prix champion Daryl Gurney for a draw while debutant Gerwyn Price recovered from 5-1 down to also earn a draw and a point against Peter Wright.
World number one van Gerwen bids for his fourth Premier League in six years and his emphatic 7-2 victory over Cross makes him an obvious title favourite with Marathonbet.
Former electrician Cross could not deal with the dart-perfect early onslaught from Dutchman van Gerwen and ultimately floundered under pressure. That performance saw his odds lengthen but he remains second-favourite with Marathonbet in the outright winner market. However, he will be hoping for an easier match after last week’s horror show when the second league night is staged this Thursday at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff.
Cross comes up against an inspired Simon Whitlock, who will be buoyed from his victory over Mensur Suljovic in Dublin. Whitlock, who nevertheless remains a big outsider for the Premier League crown, has met Cross four times in his career and lost on three occasions – the latest being a 6-3 defeat in May last year.
Despite the early Premier League setback, Cross is still a strong favourite with Marathonbet to see off Whitlock on Thursday night.
Other key fixtures in Cardiff include Van Gerwen’s clash against Peter Wright – the defending champ being a short price to maintain his winning run, whilst Gary Anderson remains favourite to beat Gerwyn Price despite those injury concerns.
In the other matches, Michael Smith against Daryl Gurney is evenly matched, though Gurney will be hoping to emulate week one where he threw the most 180’s on the night (5).
The final match of the evening sees Raymond van Barneveld take on Mensur Suljovic in another match which could go either way.
Here’s what you can look forward to at the second round on Thursday night and the rest of February:
Night Two – February 8
Motorpoint Arena Cardiff
Michael Smith v Daryl Gurney
Rob Cross v Simon Whitlock
Michael van Gerwen v Peter Wright
Gerwyn Price v Gary Anderson
Raymond van Barneveld v Mensur Suljovic
Night Three – February 15
Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle
Mensur Suljovic v Michael Smith
Daryl Gurney v Gerwyn Price
Peter Wright v Rob Cross
Gary Anderson v Michael van Gerwen
Simon Whitlock v Raymond van Barneveld
Night Four – February 22
Mercedes-Benz Arena, Berlin
Michael Smith v Simon Whitlock
Gerwyn Price v Mensur Suljovic
Michael van Gerwen v Daryl Gurney
Rob Cross v Raymond van Barneveld
Peter Wright v Gary Anderson