World darts champion Rob Cross is on the brink of qualifying for the Unibet Premier League play-offs.
The St Leonards-based thrower earned a second successive 6-6 draw with a share of the spoils against Raymond van Barneveld in Manchester tonight (Thursday).
One more point from his remaining two matches will make absolutely sure of Cross’s place in the play-offs at The O2 Arena on Thursday May 17, but he may well have already done enough.
Although he hit four 180s, Cross lacked consistency with his scoring against van Barneveld. But his finishing was sharp, hitting six of his nine darts at a double, and he was particularly lethal on double 16.
After van Barneveld held throw in the opening leg, Cross started the second leg 140, 180 en route to a 13-darter and he then checked out 72 on the bull for a 15-darter to lead 2-1. Van Barneveld hit the first of his four 180s in leg four, but Cross finished 52 in two darts to lead 3-1.
Both men landed maximums in leg five before van Barneveld produced a superb 129 outshot to hold throw. Cross hit his third 180 in the next leg and checked out 72 for a 15-darter only for van Barneveld to hit his third 180 at the start of leg seven on his way to a 15-darter.
Cross landed his fourth 180 in leg eight and after van Barneveld missed two darts to break back, Cross pinned double nine for a 5-3 lead.
Van Barneveld, however, reeled off the next three legs to go 6-5 up. He broke the Cross throw with a 13-darter in leg 10 after Cross missed a dart at double top for a 118 checkout. Cross served up a 13-darter on his own throw in the final leg, though, to earn a draw.
Speaking to Sky Sports after the match, Cross said: “It was a strange game. It started off very slowly, got a little bit better and then got a little bit worse. I’m happy with a point in fairness. It wasn’t the best game me and Barney can throw, but a point’s a point.”
The Premier League is a 16-week roadshow competition involving 10 of the sport’s top players. The next step is Birmingham next Thursday when Cross - who is third in the table - will face world number one and league leader Michael van Gerwen.
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