Rob Cross takes on Michael Smith in Sunday's World Matchplay final
The action gets underway from 7pm live on Sky Sports Action
By Josh Gorton
Last Updated: 28/07/19 6:59am
Rob Cross and Michael Smith lock horns for the right to be crowned World Matchplay champion on Sunday night at the Winter Gardens.
The pair, who were World Cup partners in Hamburg last month, now prepare to do battle in a bid to become the ninth winner of the coveted Phil Taylor Trophy.
Cross produced an astonishing fightback to seal his place in the final - his third major televised final of 2019 having also been a runner-up in the UK Open and Premier League.
'Voltage' is bidding to win his first major title since his famous World Championship triumph on New Year's Day in 2018, although Smith is also eyeing his own piece of history in Blackpool.
'Bully Boy' is featuring in his fourth televised final since May 2018 but he's yet to land his elusive first major title.
The former World Youth champion has been beaten in the Premier League and World Championship final by Michael van Gerwen, while he spurned a host of match darts to defeat James Wade in last year's World Series of Darts Finals.
Both players are appearing in their first World Matchplay final and after a week of incredible drama and thrilling tussles, we're poised for another fascinating contest to round-off what's been an incredible nine days of action...
Cross' route to the final
Cross had suffered back-to-back second-round exits in his previous Blackpool appearances, but he kicked off his campaign with a routine 10-3 win over Premier League contender Chris Dobey on the tournament's opening night.
'Voltage' averaged 100.60, landed five maximums and converted 58 per cent of his attempts at double to breeze past 'Hollywood' and set up a second round showdown against former World Master Krzysztof Ratajski.
However, the second seed saw off Ratajski in routine fashion. Having trailed 2-0 after a quickfire start from 'The Polish Eagle', Cross reeled off nine consecutive legs to seal command and triumphed 11-5 with a 98.47 average.
Former Lakeside world champion Stephen Bunting was Cross' opponent in the last eight and having dropped just eight legs en route to the quarter-finals, the world No 2 appeared to be closing out another comprehensive victory.
Cross led 9-4 but 'The Bullet' - who recovered from the same deficit to defeat Ian White in the previous round, won six of the next seven legs to restore parity at 10-10.
The scores were locked at 14-14 but the 2018 world champion showed his class in the closing stages, following up a sensational 10-dart hold with a ruthless 13-dart break to seal his semi-final spot.
This set up a tussle against third seed Daryl Gurney and 'Voltage' featured in another epic on semi-final Saturday.
The Northern Irishman led 15-9 and Cross was visibly frustrated with his performance, but from somewhere the Englishman mustered a remarkable fightback and won eight legs in succession to stun 'Super Chin' and book a place in Sunday's showpiece.
Smith's route to the final
Similarly to Cross, the Winter Gardens had never been a happy hunting ground for Smith. The St Helen's star had never progressed beyond the second round of this event in six previous appearances, but he has rectified that record to some tune.
The 28-year-old was pitted against Czech Open winner Jamie Hughes in a tough opener and 'Yozza' stormed into a 4-1 lead, only for Smith to win six of the remaining seven legs and prevail with a 98.78 average.
History repeated itself in round two, as Smith overturned a 4-1 deficit against German No 1 Max Hopp to close out a hard-fought 11-9 victory, winning the final two legs in 15 and 13 darts respectively to reach his first Blackpool quarter-final.
Smith took on 2009 semi-finalist Mervyn King in the last eight, as the 53-year-old rolled back the years to deny Smith the chance to take on his mentor and defending champion Gary Anderson.
King had been clinical in seeing off Nathan Aspinall and Anderson but he was left to rue missed opportunities as 'Bully Boy' closed out a 16-11 win, winning the last four legs to book a place in his second major semi-final of the season.
Durrant was Smith's opponent in the last four and the fifth seed could have been forgiven for fearing the worst.
'Duzza' had already claimed the scalps of Adrian Lewis, Michael van Gerwen and James Wade to reach the last eight, but the World Championship finalist produced a vintage display to sweep aside the Teessider.
Smith remarkably hit 10 of his first 11 attempts at double to open up a commanding 10-3 cushion and although the three-time Lakeside champion reduced the arrears to 12-8, the world No 6 stood firm to close out a convincing 17-10 success.
The pair's head-to-head record makes for ominous reading from a Michael Smith perspective. They have met on 15 separate occasions, with Cross winning 12 of those encounters.
The world No 2 defeated Smith in this year's UK Open semi-final and he also completed the Premier League double over his World Cup partner, making it three wins from three against 'Bully Boy' in 2019.
Nevertheless, all three of Smith's wins over Cross have come in big stage events. He defeated the Hastings ace in a European Tour event back in 2017 and also thrashed him 8-2 in the final of last year's Shanghai Masters - the only time they've ever previously met in a final.
What they had to say....
Cross: "I feel absolutely amazing, this will stay with me forever. The crowd spurred me on to win it. I'm so thankful for their support and I'm so grateful to still be in the tournament.
"I didn't feel myself so I've got to be right for the final, and I will be. If I'm ready, then anything can happen. To be in a third consecutive major final is amazing.
"This venue is iconic and it will be special for me. I want to go up there and produce - I need to come out and be ruthless. I'm really looking forward to the game."
Smith: "I'm overwhelmed to be in the final - so happy. It feels good, especially with the year I've had where everyone seems to write me off. I've shown that I can fight this week and I showed the mental attitude against Glen- I had to prove a point.
"I've been in finals before and I have to get a win soon. If it doesn't happen tomorrow then I'll be back stronger, but I'm going to give it everything I've got. As long as I keep believing that I'll win one, I know for a fact that I will."
Follow every dart from the World Matchplay final on Sunday night in Blackpool, as Rob Cross takes on Michael Smith. Coverage begins live on Sky Sports Action from 7pm.