DUNCAN TALKS SPORT: Darts magic to silence Bristow

Scott Mitchell celebrates with the trophy after defeating Martin Adams during the 2015 BDO Lakeside World Professional Darts Championships at the Lakeside Complex. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture Date: Sunday January 11, 2015. See PA story DARTS World. Photo credit should read: John Walton/PA Wire.
Scott Mitchell celebrates with the trophy after defeating Martin Adams during the 2015 BDO Lakeside World Professional Darts Championships at the Lakeside Complex. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture Date: Sunday January 11, 2015. See PA story DARTS World. Photo credit should read: John Walton/PA Wire.
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What a night, what a match. One of the best darts finals of the modern era which offered drama, passion, guts and excitement.

Yet the standard of the British Darts Organisation’s (BDO) marquee event – which produced the magnificent men’s final mentioned above – has come under the spotlight following adverse comments made by a legend of the sport, Eric Bristow.

The Crafty Cockney, who originally plied his trade with the BDO, winning the world championship five times in the 80s, slammed the tournament for its overall standard and lower than expected averages.

His opinion has been backed by some media commentators and BDO player Ross Montgomery, but slated elsewhere by fans on web forums, accusing the Londoner of “pushing buttons” and “holding grudges against the BDO.”

While I respect Bristow’s opinion, I feel that the standard of the games I have seen has provided a bucketload of entertainment. Also, it is well known the better players use the BDO as a stepping stone to the more lucrative Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), which has just staged its own world championships.

The evidence which can be used to shoot down Bristow’s comments is overwhelming.

Take the final – three-time champion Martin “Wolfie” Adams and his opponent Scott “Scotty Dog” Mitchell served up an absolute humdinger which went way beyond its broadcast slot on Sunday night and in truth, I don’t think anyone would have wanted it to end.

The experienced Adams got the better of the early exchanges but once Devonshire lad Mitchell inched in front, there was no looking back.

Yet every time Mitchell edged in front, Adams – who must have been drained after featuring in an epic semi-final – summoned up every last scrap of energy and experience to peg his rival back, with the pattern continuing, setting up a deciding set.

The darts Gods must have been smiling on Mitchell – who had previously never progressed further than round two – as he blossomed with a mesmerising 158 checkout under pressure and from then on, it was finally all over bar the shouting.

All this in front of a raucous, yet always good natured crowd at the intimate Lakeside venue at Frimley Green.

You try telling the enthusiasts who packed into the Surrey venue day in day out – including the Whitby ‘brides’ and those who were glued to the live coverage and late night highlights, as well as the players themselves, that the standard was lacking.

Aside from the gripping 13-set men’s final, there were plenty of other ding dong battles which were exciting for their unpredictability as well as the drama.

Only 24 hours before his never-say-die efforts in the final, Adams had shown similar character and true grit to overcome Teessider Glen Durrant, coming from behind to clinch a decider.

Adams had earlier come within a whisker of a historic nine-dart checkout – the least possible from a 501 start – hitting two maximum 180s to leave a 141 finish.

He hit the two trebles required to leave a double 12 finish and to a crescendo of huge gasps, unluckily bent in the wire of his target, missing by millimetres.

It would have been the first nine-dart finish at Lakeside for 25 years and would have brought the house down.

Not exciting?

Not dramatic?

It would have been talked about for years.

The match alone will live long in the memory of all those who saw it.

Then there is the tournament’s uncanny ability of throwing up shocks, not least that little known Canadian qualifier Jeff Smith rocked up and saw off such BDO icons as Robbie Green and Gary Robson.

The Silencer, as Smith is known, certainly silenced the big guns until having his good run shattered by overall winner Mitchell in one of the most ruthless displays of darts seen at Lakeside.

Among those defending the standard of the BDO competition was Lisa Ashton, who regained the ladies’ title on Saturday after seeing off impressive youngster Fallon Sherrock.

She said the standard was “going up and up every year” and the 44-year-old from Bolton was pleased that women players were given a platform from which to showcase their skills and the more coverage that could be offered, the better.

It is not even that this tournament has offered something out of the ordinary – it is actually renowned for producing nail-biting matches, tension and excellent sportsmanship.

These are all features of most BDO tournaments I have been fortunate enough to watch many times.