Thursday 13 December 2018

End of an era as former electrician delivers final Power cut

Cross: Stunning display. Photo credit: Steven Paston/PA Wire
Cross: Stunning display. Photo credit: Steven Paston/PA Wire

Jeremy Wilson

Phil Taylor admitted last night's World Championship final was a "mismatch" after a humbling 7-2 defeat to former electrician Rob Cross in the final darts match of his career.

Cross, appearing in his first World Championships at the age of 27, looked nerveless throughout as he set a blistering pace that proved too hot for the 16-time world champion to handle.

Taylor, 57, had aspirations of ending his illustrious career in fairytale fashion but would not have envisaged the kind of performance Cross was to produce.

Cross, without a tour card this time last year, averaged a remarkable 107.67, hit 11 maximums and had a checkout percentage of 60 to end his first year as a professional on the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) circuit in emphatic style.

The world number six raced into a 3-0 set lead and, after Taylor was denied a first World Championship nine-darter by the width of the double-12 wire, continued his demolition job to scoop a cheque for £400,000 (€450,000).

Taylor, who appeared to make an offensive gesture to the crowd while walking off stage during an interval, still averaged 102.26 yet had no answer to Cross's heavy scoring and prolific finishing.

Just walking up Alexandra Palace Way at 6.15pm last night was sufficient to know that you were attending something more than just a darts match.

It was two hours before the start of Taylor's last match as a professional, and a chant of 'There's only one Phil Taylor' was already hanging loudly in the air.

Touts were everywhere, with tickets exchanging hands for more than £3,000 (€3,400).

Only Taylor could provoke such fervour and, while the professional darts circuit has never been more buoyant or lucrative, we are about to discover the extent to which one man is ever bigger than a sport.

Barry Hearn, the PDC chairman, is convinced that the sport will continue to go from strength to strength and was talking excitedly yesterday about an announcement that would make "everybody's eyes water".

The sport's annual prize money now stands at £15 million (€16.9m) and last night's winner's cheque was the biggest in darts history.

Hearn thinks that Taylor is making a "big mistake" in retiring, especially as he has added some finality about his decision by resigning his place on the tour.

It is significant because it means that, rather than just sit and steadily slide down the rankings, he would have to go through qualifying if he did want to reverse his decision.

The reasons behind Taylor's retirement are still not easy to understand. His complaints of feeling tired now at 57 are understandable but he intends to be busier than ever in 2018 with exhibitions already scheduled from Australia and Japan to Dubai, North America, New Zealand and, even, Vanuatu.

"What I couldn't understand was that he wanted to spend more time at home, then I hear he has signed up for 200 exhibitions next year," said Hearn.

Arguably Britain's greatest sportsman, no one else has even come close to dominating their event for a span that takes in six prime ministers and almost three decades. The entire rise of darts and the PDC has coincided with the growth of his legend status and, whatever he says publicly, Hearn must have some concerns.

As one fan said last night: "It will be like going to Rome without the Colosseum. Yes, you can still have a really great time - but it's not quite the same." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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