When Rob Cross defeated Michael van Gerwen on the Alexandra Palace stage, in a World Championship semi-final epic, a little less than 18 months ago, there was talk of those two going on to take over the mantle from Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld as the biggest rivalry in darts.
Heading into that clash, on the biggest stage of all, Cross had recorded just one win in nine competitive meetings with van Gerwen. The head-to-head between the two, who are ranked numbers one and two on the PDC Order of Merit, now stands at 13-3 in van Gerwen’s favour.
After beating van Gerwen, Cross went on to brush aside Taylor and become world champion, a feat likened to Leicester City’s unlikely Premier League title a few years earlier. But, unlike Leicester’s future prospects at the top, Cross was expected to keep hold of his perch among the sport’s elite.
2018 was a tough year for Cross, which he is honest enough to admit. The pressure of being world champion was not like anything he had ever experienced before, and those early weeks in his debut Premier League campaign stopped him from challenging van Gerwen for top spot and the £25,000 bonus.
Fast forward to this season, and the two meet in Cardiff tonight with Cross at the summit, one point clear of van Gerwen. Tonight’s clash could prove to be make or break for either’s hopes of going to The O2 as the ‘number one seed’.
A Cross win would put him three points clear with four games to play, while if van Gerwen can come out on top he would move back into first place by a point, and you could see him go on a winning run to extinguish Cross’ chances of overhauling the world number one again.
The importance of tonight’s meeting, the 17th between the two rivals, can not be understated. From what we have seen so far in 2019, it does appear that Cross is now once again a genuine threat to van Gerwen, he has performed at a world-class level since the start of the season. Van Gerwen dominated in a 7-2 thrashing when the two met in the Premier League in February, but Cross responded well to push the Dutchman close in an 8-6 defeat in the European Darts Open final a month later.
But there is also a feeling that Cross needs to prove it by beating him when all the chips are down. Since first appearing in the Premier League, back in 2013, van Gerwen has always finished top of the pile. If Cross can get to eight legs first tonight, that impressive run would be in serious jeopardy. Now is the time for Cross to fully reassert himself as van Gerwen’s main nemesis.
Premier League Night 12 – Thursday, April 18
Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
Mensur Suljovic v Daryl Gurney
Rob Cross v Michael van Gerwen
Michael Smith v Gerwyn Price
Peter Wright v James Wade
|2||Michael van Gerwen||11||7||2||2||+27||16|
|9||Raymond van Barneveld (E)||9||1||2||6||-22||4|