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On Wednesday night there were darts-throwing pyrotechnics galore on show in the partypoker.com World Grand Prix in Dublin.
Gary Anderson, Kevin Painter and reigning champion Phil Taylor all came from behind to seal victory in their second round ties.
However, it was the match between James Wade and Robert Thornton which lit up the stage at the Citywest Hotel, with that duo breaking new ground by both hitting nine-darters.
Hitherto, opposing players have never recorded nine-darters in a single game so Wade and Thornton made their own slice of history.
To achieve that feat in this particular tournament is something special, as nine-darters aren’t commonplace in the World Grand Prix, largely due to its double-start/finish format.
Given the heroics of both men, it was a shame that there had to be a loser. Thornton fought back bravely after losing the first set, but The Machine regained the upper hand and went on to win the deciding set 3-1.
Wade has landed the World Grand Prix on two previous occasions, but his prospects of doing so again this year have not been helped by the draw – he faces Taylor on Friday.
It promises to be an epic quarterfinal tie but The Power, who is seeking his twelfth victory in this competition, is the clear favourite at a SkyBet.
Wade, a 3/1 shot with Stan James for this crunch match, will be high on confidence, though. And while Taylor should ultimately come out on top, I can envisage The Machine starting brightly and taking the first set.
The 31-year-old is 13/8 with bet365 to do just that, which is a good price by my reckoning. As we witnessed once again on Wednesday, Taylor often finishes games stronger than he starts them.
World No 6 Gary Anderson is widely expected to see off Kevin Painter, and I reckon the bookies’ assessment is accurate – Anderson is a 3/10 with William Hill top-priced, while The Artist is 3s in places.
Don’t get me wrong, Painter will leave everything on the stage – as he has done so in his two previous matches in the tournament – but The Flying Scotsman will have too much class.
My money is on a straight 3-0 victory for the 43-year-old, about which you can get 2/1 with Sky Bet.
Stephen Bunting and Michael van Gerwen should see off Richie Burnett and Mervyn King respectively in their quarterfinal ties, setting up some potentially enthralling clashes in the semis. From a betting standpoint, those games are probably best left alone, though.
At this stage, I stand by my ante-post selection, Phil Taylor, but I’m getting a strong sense that Stephen Bunting is going to make whoever he plays in the next round – assuming he does indeed see off Burnett on Friday night – work very hard indeed.
World Grand Prix Darts betting advice:
Phil Taylor v James Wade
Wade to win the first set – 13/8 (Bet365)
Gary Anderson v Kevin Painter
Anderson to win 3-0 in the correct score market – 2/1 (SkyBet)