The second round of the Grand Slam of Darts concludes on Thursday evening when the bottom half of the draw plays down to the quarter finals on a night where a number of challengers will look to put a marker down in Wolverhampton.
Michael van Gerwen will have seen the likes of Michael Smith, Gerwyn Price and Peter Wright depart from the tournament and he will be looking to move into the quarter finals on Thursday, as will a couple of other key names.
Stowe Buntz vs Andrew Gilding
The opening match of the night offers up a great chance for the two men involved to make it into the quarter final as the UK Open champion Andrew Gilding goes up against the American raider Stowe Buntz, who continues to tread new territory.
Buntz shocked everyone to win a group which contained Peter Wright, Stephen Bunting and Dave Chisnall so he fully deserves his spot in this game but there was some fortune attached to proceedings with Bunting averaging 7.5pts higher than the American in a 5-3 defeat to him while Dave Chisnall had chances to beat him much more than the 5-4 he eventually won by. Gilding has improved with each game in this tournament and you sense a format that he is comfortable in will bring out his best showing of the event so far. Gilding can be quite relentless when he gets in front and while Buntz might well stay competitive in the first session, the longer this one goes I expect Gilding to pull away and win with a bit in hand.
Danny Noppert vs Stephen Bunting
The second match of the evening sees two players who are no strangers to winning TV titles battling it out when the former UK Open champion Danny Noppert meets the man who lifted the Lakeside title in his BDO days in Stephen Bunting.
Noppert won his group with three narrow wins over Andrew Gilding, Haruki Muramatsu and Brendan Dolan and now gets a crack at a man who has already won a knockout match this week as Bunting saw off Peter Wright to make it through to this stage of the competition. Bunting has been playing well for a while now and he has scored impressively this week but his doubling can go missing at key times. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Noppert but given that he is my outright pick I’m hoping that we see it here. If we do there is a clear case that the Dutchman is favourite for this one but in a match where I don’t see much between them I’m happy to let my outright bet ride.
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Michael van Gerwen vs Damon Heta
The pick of the matches on Thursday evening is the penultimate one onto the stage when the former champion Michael van Gerwen looks to move into another Grand Slam quarter final when he takes on the Australian number one Damon Heta.
Heta might feel fortunate to be at this stage of the tournament given that he needed a 164 checkout to avoid going 4-1 down to Beau Greaves in a knockout match in his last game with Greaves sat on 42. He took that out and didn’t look back and that sort of standard under intense pressure should serve him well here. Van Gerwen might be a tough nut to crack from here though now that he is the favourite to win the tournament. These are usually the positions that he gobbles up so I think Heta has his work cut out here. The odds reflect that though.
Nathan Aspinall vs Rob Cross
The last of the second round matches could actually turn out to be the best of them as the Group H winner Nathan Aspinall continues his bid to follow up his World Matchplay win when he takes on the Group G runner-up Rob Cross.
Aspinall is a class act but he will need to find his best stuff because even though Cross had to come through a knockout clash against Fallon Sherrock last time out, he has averaged in the high 90s in all three matches. This is a tricky one to call in terms of the weekly stats because Aspinall threw in a shocker in his last group game when he had already qualified and that is skewing everything against him. Nevertheless, the eyes tell us Cross is playing well and he is going to be a tough nut to crack. Aspinall has a decent record against Cross and will relish the challenge so we could be in for a cracker to conclude the night, but I think the odds are about right.
Back A.Gilding (-1.5 legs) to beat S.Buntz for a 3/10 stake at 1.83 with BetVictor