Thank Christ it’s Dartsmas! Yours truly would never be a massive fan of this time of year at the best of times, but that upset is magnified tenfold this year. Now read on…
There are good points to it, obviously. The grub – and hopefully a drop or three of porter – and the abundance of sport available for digestion. Even though this year will be yet another case of a double-edged sword. Another one of the firsts without himself.
They actually started tonight. There aren’t many who probably get hooked on a new interest in their early 80s but that was da. And it almost happened without me noticing. The sight and sound of him pottering down to my office after his dinner became so routine that he was in the armchair and zoned into the darts before I knew he was even there.
He loved Michael Van Gerwen – or Van Gelden as he often called him, confusing fellow Dutchman and wildlife expert Gert Van Geldren – but reckoned if you got at him early you could rattle him. The same proviso was applied to Meath-Dublin match!
Phil Taylor wasn’t as big a hit “Great player but a cocky, arrogant b*****”. Ditto Gerwyn Price. One thing is for sure, he would’ve loved seeing Adrian Lewis back on form. ‘Jackpot’s ability or proven class have been in doubt, but to paraphrase what the boss might have said, he can often resemble the back passage of an infant – one never knew exactly what was going to come from him when he stood up to the oche.
Which has seen the big man from Stoke plummet down the rankings from a point where, within the last decade, he won two World Championships back to back. Yet tonight, the old Adrian, the Real Adrian was back. Digging in, showing just how good he could still be. When that languid, relaxed throw is flowing well, Lewis is a great watch.
Tonight, he needed every bit of everything he had in the back catalogue. In the muscle memory. To navigate a way past the unheralded but gutsy and gifted Matt Campbell. When the latter took the opening set, the former winner admitted he “Was thinking oh no, not this again” as he was struggling doubling.
However, just as you don’t become a good player overnight, you don’t turn into a bad one quickly either. It was mentioned several times during the match that it was quite possibly the most important match of tbe eventual victor’s career. An easy stance to understand and concur with. Perhaps, mind you, it was that exact pressure that brought the best out of him when he needed it most.
Elsewhere, as is tradition on opening night at the Ally Pally, defending champion Gerwyn Price was last into action. Whether that fact actually effected him or not we’ll never know but it was certainly a case of a cold starting, spluttering engine. Qualifier Ritchie Edhouse rattled through the first set and was actually 2-0 up in the second before the artic put the boot on the excellerator and went up through the gears.
In the night’s other game, ‘Rapid’ Ricky Evans certalnly lived up to his name when dispatching Nitin Kumar of India in straight sets. If the night had one downside from a personal perspective, it was the realisation that Adrian Lewis will now face Gary Anderson. Thus, one of my favourites will be out of the running very early on. We’ll jump that hurdle when we get to it.