Betfair Ambassador Wayne Mardle is on a roll. Can he keep it going as the World Matchplay darts reaches the quarter-final stage on Friday?
It’s early for Blackpool illuminations but ‘the Machine’ has lit up the Winter Gardens...
What a night for this column! We landed four out of four on Thursday's matches and, while I don't want to big myself up too much, I'm chuffed with ten winning bets out of our last 12. I'm not getting carried away. It's quarter-finals day at the Winter Gardens and the climax of the World Matchplay is in sight. Now the nerves kick in - for players and punters - but the excitement levels rise too and I anticipate another cracking round of matches.
Justin Pipe v Ronnie Baxter (13:10)
Rising star Pipe showed his mettle in his 13-10 victory over Wes Newton, winning five successive legs. He's methodical, not as slow as some people say, but certainly a man from the steadier side of the darting tracks. Ronnie Baxter likes matches to flow - something Pipe will be alive too - and his opponent will try to stop him hitting his stride. The early start will benefit Pipe too because Ronnie relishes a psyched-up crowd and, in the afternoon, he'll probably find them more subdued. Odds of 1.7 on Pipe is decent.
Adrian Lewis v Terry Jenkins (15:00)
As a bettor I wouldn't back Adrian Lewis. Terry Jenkins is a fierce competitor and the markets imply a greater gulf between the players than exists. Having got this far there's no way that Jenkins will let Lewis dominate. Don't get me wrong, Lewis has the game to dig in against top players when he needs to, as evidenced when he came from 5-1 down to defeat James Wade. But his opponent has the bit between his teeth and I'm looking forward to a close contest.
Phil Taylor v Andy Hamilton (19:10)
I've watched Phil Taylor up close - first as an opponent, latterly as a commentator - for many years and his 10-3 victory over Ian White was one of the strangest performances I've seen. It was the way the darts were going in to the board - wobbling, as though the Power's throwing lacked conviction. That's not like Phil but we should remember that he still won by a decent margin, with an average of 91. Mediocre darts for Phil still constitutes decent darts for most players. He was, however, disappointed with his display and I expect him to come roaring back. I don't give Andy Hamilton a chance, I expect Taylor to average 100 and to cover the 5.5 handicap. Reports of the Power's demise? Greatly exaggerated.
Michael van Gerwen v James Wade (21:00)
This contest oozes class. I should put my cards on the table and say that I don't think van Gerwen will win. And yet I won't bet against him. I said earlier in the week that I think he is, after Taylor, probably the most talent player out there. That's meant he's had to shoulder pressure throughout his career but he's relaxed in recent years and is really blossoming. That said, James Wade has been brilliant so far. It's a bit early for Blackpool illuminations but 'the Machine' has lit up the Winter Gardens with some splendid throwing. He demolished Mark Walsh in the last round and I don't anticipate any dip in his form tonight.
I'm going to swerve the match odds. Over a long contest these two will keep hitting the 180s so I'm putting my money on over 14.5.