Wright celebrates against Gurney during the 2017 Semi-Finals (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
Three of the world’s top six players plus a resurgent former World Champion comprise line-up for the second pair of Quarter-Finals at the 2019 World Matchplay in Blackpool on Friday.
Michael Smith and Glen Durrant were the first players to book their places in the Semi-Finals on Friday as he they continued their ground-breaking runs at the Winter Gardens.
A new name is now guaranteed on the iconic Phil Taylor Trophy, and all six remaining hopefuls will feel they have a golden opportunity to walk away with the top prize come Sunday evening.
The opening clash on Friday night sees two former World Champions collide as 2018 PDC World Champion Rob Cross faces 2014 BDO king Stephen Bunting.
Cross, making only his third appearance in this prestigious competition, has been ruthless in winning through to this stage for the first time, dropping just eight legs so far this week.
The world number two swept aside debutant Chris Dobey 10-3 with a 100 average before thrashing Polish number one Krzysztof Ratajski 11-5 with a 98 average.
Cross, who has now reached the Quarter-Finals in five of his last six televised tournaments, is aiming to finally follow up his fairy-tale World Championship triumph last January by adding the sport’s second biggest major to his haul.
The 28-year-old has finished runner-up in this year’s UK Open and Premier League, and with key rivals Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson having both crashed out, ‘Voltage’ is now the bookmaker’s favourite to lift the trophy.
Standing in the way of Cross and a place in the Semis, however, is a resurgent Bunting, who finds himself in a first Matchplay Quarter-Final at the sixth attempt.
In contrast to Cross, ‘The Bullet’ has battled through two marathon matches to reach the latter stages, contesting more legs (51) than any of the quarter-finalists.
Bunting held his nerve to edge out Gerwyn Price in an epic sudden death leg before recovering from 9-4 down and surviving five match darts to overcome Ian White 14-12.
After dropping out of the world’s top 16 last year, Bunting admitted he considered walking away from the sport, but has worked with a sports psychologist to help turn his fortunes around and become a force to be reckoned with once again.
A mouth-watering second show-down of the night features two Premier League stars facing off as third seed Daryl Gurney meets sixth seed Peter Wright.
A repeat of their thrilling Semi-Final two years ago sees Gurney on the hunt for revenge and looking to halt arguably the most impressive player of the tournament so far.
Gurney is out to add this trophy to his 2017 World Grand Prix and 2018 Players Championship Finals titles, but knows he must raise his game from his opening two showings if he is to live with a red hot Wright.
The Northern Irish ace saw off debutant Ricky Evans 10-7 in Round One before defeating Keegan Brown 11-9 despite an average of just 93.
He has won just one of his last eight meetings with ‘Snakebite’, though three of those encounters have ended in draws in the Premier League.
Wright is in the midst of an incredible winning run, having extended his unbeaten streak to 20 matches in all competitions with crushing victories over Vincent van der Voort and Simon Whitlock so far this week.
Winner of the German Masters and back-to-back Players Championship events, the colourful Scot continued that rampant form upon his return to the Winter Gardens, averaging 102 and 103 in reaching a fifth consecutive Matchplay Quarter-Final.
Wright, who won the World Cup of Darts alongside Scottish compatriot Gary Anderson last month, is the only player to have landed a 170 checkout in this tournament so far and will have fond memories of his 17-15 triumph over ‘Superchin’ in the 2017 Semi-Finals.
The action gets underway from 7pm BST, with all matches to be contested over the best of 31 legs. Matches must be won by two clear legs and will proceed for a maximum of five additional legs before a sudden death leg is required.
Betfred World Matchplay 2019 Match Schedule
Friday July 26
7.15pm Rob Cross v Stephen Bunting
8.45pm Peter Wright v Daryl Gurney