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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Phil Taylor to complete fairytale ending at Ally Pally

Power can cut Voltage and seal dream retirement

Ph8il Taylor and Rob Cross pose with the PDC World Darts Championship trophy
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William Hill World Darts Championship final
Sky Sports Main Event, 8pm Monday

Philip Douglas Taylor looks likely to start his retirement in possession of the two biggest titles the sport of darts has to offer.

An incredible fairytale is unfolding at Alexandra Palace and a 17th World Championship victory appears to be coming for the most successful arrowsmith in history, who faces rising star Rob Cross in the final.

Hardly any sportsmen retire at the top of their game. Eric Cantona, who bowed out aged 30 after captaining Manchester United to Premier League glory, is probably the most famous of all.

Taylor, who won the World Matchplay in July, can claim the William Hill World Championship trophy, too, before calling time on his remarkable career as a 57-year-old legend.

The Power still has the ability to win the most prestigious tournaments on the darting calendar and may be wondering if he is exiting the stage too soon.

But partisan English darts crowds have helped greatly in making this farewell season a potentially perfect send-off. Michael van Gerwen suffered abuse from hostile Blackpool hordes in his quarter-final meeting with Taylor at the Match Play, and boo-boys rattled the Dutchman again on Saturday.

Van Gerwen was hounded by the Ally Pally masses throughout his epic 6-5 defeat to Cross, the whistles in the closing stages stemming from a mixture of jingoistic support for Cross and an eagerness for an easier final for Taylor. Cross admitted afterwards: “They got on Michael's back and that's why I won.”

With Van Gerwen out of the way, the championship looks at the mercy of Taylor, who seems an astonishingly big price at 10-11 to beat Cross in the final.

The rowdy mob who helped Cross send the odds-on favourite packing in the semis will not be repeating the dose. The majority of those lucky enough to have tickets for the final will be hoping to witness the ultimate – the greatest player of all time winning the biggest tournament of them all as a spectacular swansong. It is an “I was there” moment, which guarantees Taylor the lion's share of support.

Bookmakers have clearly been impressed by debutant Cross, who has averaged slightly higher than Taylor in this tournament, which he began as a 20-1 chance, and has been outperforming him in the last few months. But the proven champion should prevail in the maximum-pressure environment of a World Championship final.

Cross has ridden his luck to get this far. He was outplayed by Michael Smith in round two and Dimitri van den Bergh in the quarters, before Van Gerwen missed six match darts in their semi. Cross will surely struggle to pull another rabbit from the hat against Taylor, who has dropped just five sets in reaching the final.

The occasion seems likely to prove too much for Cross, who has never won a televised event and has never played Taylor. Cross was looking good in the Players Championship Finals a month ago, but lost 11-8 to Welsh journeyman Jonny Clayton in the semi-finals.

He has won four floor events, but has never triumphed in front of the cameras, which is understandable given his inexperience. He did not even have a Tour card 14 months ago and the former electrician has enjoyed a stunning rise from obscurity.

Taylor can use his experience and comfort on the biggest stage of them all to bully Cross early in the match. Taylor found himself behind in sets throughout his semi with Jamie Lewis, but kept producing fantastic breaks of throw with masterful darts when it mattered most to see off the youngster 6-1. Taylor can do a similar job on another player less than half his age in the final.

The longer the match goes on, the more hope Cross has of justifying the flattering odds which bookmakers have chalked against his name. His veteran opponent can get jaded in protracted battles.

The Power, though, will be fully aware of the need to assert himself from the off, and backing a heavy Taylor success could be the best route to profit from the contest.

Expect Voltage to be cut off in the first few sets. Various handicaps are available, but Taylor minus 2.5 sets at 2-1 looks the best value of all. That means winning 7-4 or better. If Cross gets five sets on the board Taylor could be in trouble, but it seems unlikely.

The last six times Taylor has played in a World Championship final, he has averaged more than 100. His average for finals at Alexandra Palace is 104.76, with only one defeat – a 7-6 loss to Gary Anderson in 2015. Taylor has played in 18 PDC World Championship finals and been beaten only four times. Not since 1994 has he lost a world final by a margin of more than one set.

Betfair, Betfred, Betway, BoyleSports and Hills are all offering 2-1 about Taylor minus 2.5 sets. BetBright, Betfred, Betway, BoyleSports, Coral, Ladbrokes and 188Bet go a juicy 12-1 about a 7-2 scoreline.

P Taylor minus 2.5 sets
4pts 2-1 general
P Taylor to win 7-2
1pt 12-1 general

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Taylor should prevail in the maximum-pressure environment of a World Championship final
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