Three years ago, Peter Wright ruled himself out of selection for Scotland in the 2016 PDC World Cup of Darts. At that point, there were question marks about whether the supreme talents of Wright and Gary Anderson would ever combine to win the tournament.
“They’re too good not to win it” has been the usual remark when assessing Scotland’s chances of World Cup glory. Wright and Anderson were losing finalists in 2015, to the England team of Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis.
After missing out in 2016, Wright made his return the following year, but it did not exactly go according to plan. A 5-2 defeat in the first round to Singapore, one of the top three biggest shocks in the tournament’s history, left us wondering again whether Scotland would ever break the hegemony that England and the Netherlands had on the World Cup.
Last year, Wright and Anderson reached a second World Cup final, this time losing out to the Dutch duo of Michael van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld. Two finals, and on both occasions the Scots faced one of the two most successful pairs in the competition’s roll of honour.
Would this year be different? Again, there were question marks in the build up. Billed as the most open PDC World Cup yet, due to the break up of the van Gerwen/van Barneveld alliance, Scotland were still priced as one of the three leading favourites to walk away with a trophy they had yet to get their hands on.
Anderson has rarely featured in 2019, as he recovers from a back injury, and confided in his partner Wright before their opening game against Denmark on Thursday that he did not expect to be playing at his best.
While Anderson has been inactive for most of the season, Wright continues to rarely skip an event, but he endured a disappointing Premier League campaign. His two wins over the 16 nights came against Steve Lennon, a “Contender”, and van Barneveld, who was eliminated on Judgement Night.
Last up on stage on Thursday, Anderson and Wright had to wait and watch the damage unfold, as seeds Wales and Northern Ireland departed at the first hurdle. Scotland’s arrival in this year’s World Cup was well worth the wait.
A 101.55 average and a 5-0 win against Denmark sent the Scots through to the weekend, where they continued their latest assault on the title against Sweden on Saturday afternoon. The pair dropped just two legs as they waltzed into the quarter-finals.
It was in the last eight, and their first real test of the week, when Anderson and Wright flourished. A high-quality contest against Belgium saw the two both record 4-2 wins, Anderson with a 100.41 average, while Wright’s was a staggering 110.29.
As more of the seeds continued to fall, Australia and England on Saturday, followed by Austria on Sunday afternoon, Scotland were in a final four with the holders, the Netherlands, and the surprise packages of Ireland and Japan.
The second seeds started the final session with another win in straight singles, beating Japan 2-0, to progress to a third World Cup final. And, after the Netherlands became the latest scalp by the Irish team of Lennon and Willie O’Connor, Scotland knew this would be their best chance to win a World Cup final.
Lennon’s win in the first singles, beating Anderson 4-2, was the first time Scotland had tasted defeat all week. And it would be the last. Wright defeated both O’Connor and Lennon, and in-between those two victories, he partnered Anderson to a 4-0 win in the doubles.
Much is said about the winning formula in the World Cup owes much to gelling with your partner. Team chemistry can go a long way, just look at how some of the less-established names have knocked out the big boys this week.
But as all the big names have fallen around them, Anderson and Wright have shown their class this week. They were too good never to win a World Cup, but until they got over that line it would be a debate that would always resurface each summer. That debate has now finished, the new question is: just how many World Cups can these two win?