Rob Cross defeated Raymond van Barneveld 7-3 last time out to make it two wins in a row in the 2018 Premier League since losing his opening two matches of the tournament. With his match against Van Barneveld level at 3-3, Cross won four legs on the trot to claim the two points.
He finished off the match against Barney with a 128 checkout, which was his first ton-plus checkout of the Premier League so far. Overall, he hit 70% of his double attempts during the match which was a big improvement on his opening three matches where he had an average 27% checkout percentage.
Last weekend, Cross reached the quarter-finals at the UK Open where he lost 10-5 to eventual champion Gary Anderson. His best performance during the tournament came in the last 16 when he averaged 103.88 in his 10-3 over Krzysztof Ratajski.
Michael Smith sits at the top of the table having maintained his 100% winning start in the 2018 Premier League with a 7-3 win over the previously unbeaten Simon Whitlock in Berlin. Smith recovered well from having his throw broken in the opening leg of the match and dominated thereafter against an out-of-sorts opponent who struggled for form throughout.
Although he is top of the table, his tournament average of 92.26 is the lowest in the league. Smith’s average of 87.32 against Whitlock was his lowest of the tournament so far and was his second sub-90 average from his four matches played.
Smith has certainly benefitted from his opponents missing their attempts at doubles across his four matches, with the combined checkout percentage against Smith in the 2018 Premier League being just 21.9%.
If this match is anything like their clash at the 2018 World Championship then we are in for a cracker. On that occasion, Cross came out on top in a thriller that went all the way to a last set decider. Smith was very unfortunate to lose as he had earlier missed two match darts to win the match 4-2, and overall, he won 16 legs compared to 12 legs won by Cross. Between them, they produced a total of 29 maximums in 28 legs and they both averaged in excess of 102.
Rob Cross has settled into the Premier League after a slow start and having won his last two matches will be looking to keep his momentum going as he strives for a place in the top four. Current league leader Smith has won all four of his games, though as the stats show he hasn’t been performing perhaps as well as those results suggest.
The head-to-head record is in favour of Cross; he he has won each of their last four meetings, though as mentioned above their World Championship thriller could have gone the way of Smith. That performance from Smith was one of his best ever on the big TV stage and unless he replicates that level of play he may come up short again. Cross has shown he has a higher level of consistency and he looks the most likely winner in this encounter.