The stage was set, and the match reporter was jangling with nerves. But pressure to Gary Anderson is what water is to a duck’s back. The two time World Champion had to win and hope the other group game went in his favour – but without victory, the other game became meaningless. It was winless Steve Lennon who was the obstacle as Gary looked to book his second round spot.

Lennon had the darts, and experienced a bounce out with dart two, but recovered with a T19 to open with 77. Gary couldn’t take any potential advantage, opening with just 39, but he recovered quickly, finding his range to hit a 177 to leave 160. Lennon could only pressure in the form of leaving the big fish, before Gary hit 60 with three darts on the bottom wire, and Lennon 89 with his last dart hitting the Bull. Gary hit a S20 and tried the Tops-Tops route, going above the wire and having to set up. Lennon started the 81 he had left with an S3, but recovered on T18 and hit D12 to hold. 0-1.

Gary opened his first leg on throw trebleless, hitting just 60. Lennon replied with 43, before Gary only mustered another score of 60. Lennon looked to wrestle the darts away with a 140, but Gary fought back, putting together a couple of one treble visits, before stepping it up. A 140 from his remaining 196 left 56 – but he almost didn’t get a shot, with a dart at Bull from Lennon for a 164 checkout drifting low into the S3. Gary set up Tops and took it with ease to level. 1-1.

Lennon opened back on throw with 58, before Gary replied with a 131, courtesy of a T17 in the last dart of the visit. The pair exchanged 140s, before Gary roared into action with his maiden maximum of the match. He had 50 left on the board, and opted for the South West corner, coming inside on D16 and out on D8. Lennon couldn’t do much from his 152, and Gary took D8 first in hand to break and take a crucial lead. 2-1.

The leg that I’m about to describe – it is something that should be hung in the Louvre, not occurring on a stage in Wolverhampton. Gary opened with a 180. Gary followed that with a 180. And when dart seven cannoned into the T20, I placed my laptop next to me for fear of tipping it over – but dart eight at the T19 went narrowly under, making the world take a collective sigh as to what might have been. But, a T18 left D4, which he dispatched with ease for the 10 darter – and as my notes say: He was in his element. 3-1.

Lennon was now out of the competition. Due to the leg difference, Gary’s third leg meant that, even if he pulled off a shock comeback, the peak he could reach was third in the table. It was 59 he started the Fifth with, before a smooth rolling Gary replied with 97. They exchanged 140s, and Gary walloped home another marvellous maximum. He had 84 left, and came just inside on D11 to take the shot out, and was nearly punished when Lennon missed Tops for the 145. Both missed opportunities on the outer ring, but it was Gary who came out of the leg the winner, nailing D1 with the second dart in hand to go within one of the vital victory. 4-1.

It was simple – hold, and Gary’s end of the deal was done. He opened with a ton, and followed up with a 91, courtesy of a last in hand T17. Gary scored steadily on his way to the all important finishing range. He eventually ended up on 73 – and wasted no time in killing it in two, on D8, to seal the win, and do his bit in the bid for group supremacy. 5-1.

Result: Gary Anderson 5-1 Steve Lennon

The Stats:

Average: 102.77

180s: 4

Checkout Success: 5/11 (45%)

Highest Checkout: 73

The Verdict:

Well, that was just everything that yesterday wasn’t. Absolutely vintage Gary.

And with that, he keeps his 100% record of emerging from the group stage at the Grand Slam. This was written during the Humphries v Van Duijvenbode match, and Humphries held up his end of the bargain to defeat the Dutchman and ensure Gary kept the second place spot that this win had earned him. He’ll face Gerwyn Price in the second round.

Hmm…Gary v Price at the Grand Slam…I’ll have some articulated thoughts on THAT in the preview.

But, t’is besides the point. Today was, and I’ll go out on a limb in saying this, one of the best Gary performances I’ve seen on TV in many a year. The 102 average doesn’t do it justice, in terms of how comfortable he looked on that stage. Going seven into the nine nearly caused bedlam in my student house, and some of the passages of play were, quite simply, majestic. The Phase 6s looked as good as ever, and he did his job to a top standard, meaning that Humphries doing the same was enough to secure the Flying Scotsman’s spot as one of the Top 16 players in the tournament.

He was using his Phase 6s, two tone shafts and world champion Flights.

SPURCE-Ryan Segal

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