Sunday, 28 July 2019

And then there were two

So it comes down to Rob Cross against Michael Smith for all the cheddar, Cross looking for, oddly, his first title of the year and second major overall, and his first ranking title in over a year, while Smith is also looking for his first title of the year, his first major title, and he's not won a ranking event for two months longer than Cross has, so there's a lot on the line here. The bookies can hardly separate them (Cross is 5/6 with Smith the opposite), but can we? First things first, the year long stats:


That's not overly pretty reading for Smith - Cross hasn't played quite as many events as Smith has (only having played half the Pro Tour events), but his win/loss percentage is basically the same as Smith's, and in both the legs he's won and the legs he's lost, he's performed considerably better - which translates to the model thinking Cross wins the final 73% of the time. That's not exactly 5/6. How have their averages fluctuated over the course of the year?


Not overly pretty for Smith either, it looks like Cross has a bit of a slump before rising again once the Matchplay's been under way, but there's a very real sample size issue possibly at play, at that point in the year he wasn't playing much darts, at least ranking darts, and went out fairly early in some Euro Tours when he was playing. How about how they've done in this event?


Here it's a bit closer - Smith's actually doing better in the legs he's won, with a great showing of power legs, primarily against King and Hughes, while we all saw the level of play he put in to effectively end the game early against Durrant yesterday. Those winning legs give Smith the match 63% of the time if we just consider Matchplay stats, although when Smith's had some bad legs, they've been bad enough that Cross still leads in the overall statistics, although that clownshow leg against King where Smith had 27 darts and still lost the leg may have something to do with that.

Head to head, Cross has a pretty dominating record - 12-3, although a lot of this is in unranked tournaments, which included two of Smith's three wins in the World Series last year. They last met for ranked money in the UK Open semi final where Cross obviously won, while Cross also won their other major meetings late in 2017 - in the European Championships, which was easy, and in the worlds, which was anything but, and I think we can all remember how that one went down. I suppose the only real thing is that the only time these two have met in a final, although unranked, Smith had his only real comfortable win he's had against Cross, 8-2 in Shanghai, the other two wins for him being deciding leg shootouts.

It's really hard to look past Cross here, but there's something in the way Smith's played in this event that dissuades me from going past the Cross bet. I get the sense that he's finally at the stage in his career where he's ready to nick a title, he finally managed to get to the major final in the worlds and it didn't work out, and I think that experience might be enough to get him over the line. On the other hand, after Gurney chucked away that huge lead in the semi final, is Cross's name already on the trophy? I'm not going to bet this, and just enjoy the final, which for the tournament leaves us down three quarters of a unit, not great but could have been a lot worse given the state we were in where we were going multiple underdogs and very few favourites, and all the chalk was coming home - except in the few matches we did go for the favourite (thanks Gerwyn and Peter).

Some other notes - we had the fifth weekend of the Asian Tour, and Paul Lim had a great weekend, claiming event 9 and finishing runner up in event 10, beating the young Chinese kid that looked a decent prospect in the 2018 worlds, but then losing to Yuki Yamada, who I don't really know a lot about but was a finalist earlier in the year, and has put himself in the equation for an Ally Pally spot (I'm going to the Friday evening straight before Christmas by the way) - Ilagan and Lim have clinched and Malicdem looks fairly safe, but then Asada, Lam, Yamada and Muramatsu are all separated by less than $1,500, so it wouldn't take much for any of them to power their way in. Especially if Asada is able to win the Japanese qualifier again, it's more or less wide open for the last spot.

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