Wayne Mardle won a thrilling match of breathtaking quality 4-2 against John Part tonight to reach the quarter-finals of the Ladbrokes.com World Championship at Purfleet’s Circus Tavern.
As 12-times champion Phil Taylor and his protégé Adrian Lewis stayed on course for a meeting in the final next Monday, Mardle gave them a reminder of his abundant talent with one of the finest performances of his career.
The 32-year-old from Dagenham, yet to capture a major title having so often fallen just short, was perhaps slightly flattered by the scoreline against the Canadian, who also played superbly, but all aspects of Mardle’s game were on song.
Mardle, nicknamed ‘Hawaii Five-O-One’ because of the flamboyant shirt he wears on stage, has adopted a more serious approach in matches but still played to the crowd, especially after his opponent, known as ‘Darth Maple’, walked on stage accompanied by a group of Star Wars characters.
But while two-time former champion Part’s scoring was top notch, his finishing was not of the standard produced by Mardle, who won the first set with a brilliant 126 checkout and never looked back, wrapping it up with his favourite double 18 to oust the last remaining non-English player.
“I’m 32 now and I’m growing up,” said world number six Mardle.
“I’m trying to get the balance right between being a serious player and an entertainer but I don’t know if I’ve got it perfect yet.
“But that’s the best I’ve played for ages and it’s so encouraging that I’ve done it in the biggest match I’ve had for ages. It’s good to know I can do it when called upon.
“John was on his game – he mullered me on the treble 20 – but he let me off a bit. I’ve played one of the best players in the world and taken care of him.”
In the last eight tomorrow Mardle will meet Alan Warriner-Little, who leaped off stage to hug his wife Brenda after hitting a spectacular 138 checkout that completed a 4-2 victory against Andy ‘Pie Man’ Smith.
Taylor was close to his imperious best in a 4-0 victory over fellow Stoke player Andrew ‘The Hammer’ Hamilton, who never held a realistic chance after the champion opened up with a bullseye finish, but earned himself some credit by achieving a near-perfect 10-dart leg.
That feat was emulated in the last leg of the match by ‘The Power’, who after recording a massive three-dart average of 108 said: “We can all see the finishing post of the tournament now and it’s time to kick.”
His practice partner Lewis showed he has the fighting qualities to go with his outstanding talent when digging deep to knock out fourth seed Roland Scholten.
Lewis battled back from 2-0 down to win 4-3, and it was not just the deficit he had to overcome for he has also been suffering from flu, which disrupted preparations for the biggest match of his life so far.
“That shows I’m a fighter,” said world number 20 Lewis, who was a virtual unknown this time last year apart from his association with Taylor but is now second favourite for the crown.
“I was never really out of the match but I came back strongly,” he said.
“I saw the goalposts when I was 3-2 up but I didn’t win a leg in the next set and had to get my head back on.
“I’ve had a bit of flu over the last couple of days which has taken all my energy. I’ve had to have plenty of rest and I didn’t get up until 4pm yesterday.”
Lewis will now face Peter Manley, for whom a change of shirt worked wonders as he also recovered from 2-0 down to win 4-3 against Dennis Smith.
Nothing went right for Manley in the early stages and after the second set he went backstage to change out of his red and black shirt into his lucky one with a pink flamingo pattern.
Smith was visibly unsettled by the delay and that manifested itself in his play, for the world number 21 could not sustain his fine form and the fifth seed hit back.
Manley insisted there had been no gamesmanship involved in his change of shirt and explained: “It was a difficult problem because I’ve put on a few pounds and the shirt I wore at the start was feeling a bit tight around the arms.
“I had asked for the flamingo shirt to be ready for me before the match, but for some reason it wasn’t so someone had to go and fetch it.
“I wouldn’t have thought Dennis was too upset about it. He was practising on stage whereas I wasn’t throwing a dart.”