Darts ace Rob Cross produced another top class performance to defeat a five-time world champion in a televised contest tonight (Thursday).
The St Leonards-based thrower achieved a splendid 10-7 victory over Dutch great Raymond van Barneveld to reach the bwin Grand Slam of Darts quarter-finals in Wolverhampton.
Speaking to Sky Sports after the match, Cross said: “It’s definitely the biggest win of my career to date. I felt I showed Barney too much respect early on and was more playing him instead of the board, but when the second interval came round, I played a lot better and I was glad for that.
“I lack in experience, but sometimes ability pulls through. I’m here to learn, but all the time I feel I’m getting better. I’m enjoying it.”
The lead changed hands frequently in a see-saw encounter, but it was Cross who came through when it mattered most, winning the final four legs after trailing 7-6 and finishing the match with a 103.87 average.
Cross lost the opening leg on his own throw, but broke straight back. He then missed two darts for a 2-1 lead and van Barneveld hit a 167 outshot to break again. The next two legs went with throw to leave Cross trailing 3-2 at the first break.
After Cross narrowly missed the bull for a 123 checkout, van Barneveld held to lead 4-2. Cross then stepped up a couple of gears to reel off four consecutive legs with some superb darts.
Cross hit a 171 en route to winning the seventh leg, and a 180 followed by a 104 finish brought him level at 4-4. He just missed the bull for a 164 checkout en route to winning the ninth leg before taking the next in 12 darts aided by back-to-back 180s to lead 6-4 at the second break.
The momentum shifted again as van Barneveld won the first three legs after the resumption. Cross narrowly missed the bull for a 122 outshot in leg 11 and missed two darts at a double in leg 13.
It was all-Cross, however, from then on. A 180 at the start of leg 14 helped bring him level at 7-7 and an 11-dart leg featuring another 180 in the next put him back in front.
With van Barneveld’s level dropping, Cross finished 72 in two darts to go 9-7 up and a 14-darter on his own throw in the next leg sealed a splendid win.
His reward is another showdown with world number one and reigning world champion Michael van Gerwen on Saturday night. The two men met in the group stage last Sunday night when Cross led 4-2 and missed two darts to win 5-3 before van Gerwen came back to triumph 5-4.
“I’m not bothered about Michael and he knows that,” added Cross, whose win over van Barneveld came on his son’s sixth birthday. “I’m sure it will be a good game. If I come out and do what I can do, I’ve got every chance of winning.”
Cross has enjoyed an extraordinary debut season on the Professional Darts Corporation ProTour, winning four Players Championship titles and reaching the Unibet European Championship final.
The 27-year-old, nicknamed Voltage, is currently 24th on the PDC order of merit, but is likely to rise to at least 22nd when the next rankings list is announced after this event.