Okay, so darts may be England’s last bastion in sports. A game that we dominate and have done ever since its inception.
That’s not saying there’ve not been challengers for the world crown from other countries along the way. There have been and then some.
But one glance at past winners of the World Championship tells you everything you need to know about the global kingpins of darts.
And so it proved again at yesterday’s World Cup of Darts marathon day in Hamburg, with the semi-finals being played in the afternoon and the final last night.
England retain darts’ world crown – just
For its dominance over the years, England could so easily have gone out at either the quarter-final stage or the semi stage in Germany this weekend.
James Wade, renowned for his accuracy on double ten, must have put a curse on the red bit when he represented England in the first ever World Cup of Darts two years ago.
Although he and Taylor memorably failed that year, The Power and Lewis righted that wrong last year and again this. But let’s hope there’s a good launderette in Stoke.
In the last 16 match against South Africa on Saturday and then the semi-final against Wales yesterday afternoon, darters had shots to put England on the next Boeing back across The Channel.
Charl Pietersen needed 80 for South Africa with their quarter-final against the Taylor/Lewis combo going into the deciding doubles match. Poised at 4-4, the young South African’s first dart was clean as a whistle into the treble 20.
But the pressure of such a famous scalp saw his double 10 effort and subsequent double 5 an inch inside both targets.
And with quite literally the first sighting of ‘Jackpot’ of the weekend – at least the darter who won the 2011 and 2012 PDC World Championships – England stepped up to the oche at the Alsterdorfer Sporthalle to clean up with Tops.
Another England scare against Japan in the quarters
Saturday night saw England face Japan. Muramatsu, whom we’ve seen at the last two PDC World Championships at the Ally-Pally, played like the darter Phil Taylor has prophesied he will become.
Behind Muramatsu and World Cup of Darts team-mate, Katsumi, The Power expects to see a wave of Asian darters flood the PDC. On this performance, that day looks ever closer.
The way the seeds fell on Saturday, Taylor knew anything was possible over such a short format. And, boy, how very nearly did the unthinkable happen?
Taylor did a job on Muramatsu to put England 1-0 up. But Lewis struggled with his form again against Katsumi.
This second singles match went all the way. Katsumi set himself up for a shot at 140, missing out only on that good old double 10, which would have sown the match up as early as the sixth leg.
You can tempt fate once too often. In the seventh leg, double 10 was again the obstacle facing English opponents. Katsumi made no mistake on this occasion and sent the match into the doubles play-off.
Japan stormed into a 2-0 lead in the pairs play-off, following the first real blip of Taylor’s week in the first leg. The Power soon made up for the error – and how!?
Taylor had single-handedly pulled the match back to 2-1. But, in the fourth leg, Muramatsu was left 56 by Katsumi with Taylor, in between, facing a 160 checkout.
The way Muramatsu was playing, the 56 would have gone, for sure. At 3-1 down, it would have been a very different story for England.
But this is why Taylor is 16-time world champion.
- Treble 20!
- Treble 20!
2-2 instead of 1-3 and the English boys never looked back, sealing a place in the semis against last year’s opponents at the same stage, Wales, with a 4-2 victory.
Wales make the last day for 3rd successive year
You have to feel for Wales. In the inaugural event in 2011, they lost to Holland in the final. Last year, they met England here in the semi-final who saw them off on their way to the title.
As Phil Taylor had carried Adrian Lewis for most of the tournament, Mark Webster was the man to beat in this semi-final rather than Richie Burnett.
No, that’s perhaps a little harsh on Richie. Webster was outstanding, so much so that it perhaps overshadowed the Prince of Wales’ performance.
Indeed, if the chance that fell to Burnett in the sixth leg to send England packing had dropped to Webster, there may be dragons on the trophy today instead of lions.
Wales were 3-2 up with England sat on double 4 after Taylor had missed double 16 and 8 respectively to tie the match at 3-3.
Burnett needed the same 140 to take Wales through to the final that Japan’s Katsumi had been tasked with in the previous round against Lewis.
England sphincters clenched as both of Burnett’s first two darts found the treble 20, leaving that same old double ten that Pietersen and Katsumi had missed in the previous rounds.
And once again, the third dart in the combo landed an inch inside the wire, leaving Jackpot to tidy up double 4 and send the match into a tiebreaker.
In that 7th and final leg, Lewis began to at last shoulder some of the pressure and stepped up to the oche to close the match out 4-3 and seal what looked at one stage a very unlikely England darts victory.
England breezed the World Cup of Darts final
The final against Belgium’s Huybrechts brothers did, however, go pretty much to the form-book.
Taylor, imperious all week, won both of his singles games. Lewis fell to Kim Huybrechts who, behind Taylor, was the star of the weekend’s proceedings.
But Jackpot beat Kim’s older brother, Ronny who, on his first televised performance at this Betfair World cup of Darts, did his brother, country and recently-deceased father proud every step of the way.
Should the match have been tied 2-2 at the end of the singles, there was the proviso for a pairs play-off. But it wasn’t necessary.
Two singles victories for Taylor and one for Lewis wrapped up the final at 3-1 to retain England’s world darting crown. And, it has to be said, with a lot less drama than the three rounds that had gone before.
Okay, it was perhaps predictable. But there were moments that suggest England, like every other sport they’ve created, will not have it all their own way for that much longer.
Join me for more darts on Wednesday as we preview the new-look Premier League, which kicks off in Belfast on Thursday evening.
Have a great week. I hope you enjoyed this World Cup of Darts review.
For blow-by-blow details of the last 16 through to the final, you can catch the scores and stats on the PDC website:
Both photos, Courtesy of PDC.tv, World Cup of Darts