Christopher Kempf, the statistical analyst of the PDC, takes a look at the Unibet Premier League Play-Offs semi-final between Rob Cross and James Wade.

The career record of professional encounters between Wade and Cross represents, in the two years leading up to tonight's match, a dead heat.

Cross and Wade have emerged the winner six times each, with Cross maintaining a slight edge in legs won (68 Cross, 63 Wade).

But while Wade has already won three Players Championship titles this year, Cross is in the midst of a nine-month title drought.

Cross was also denied the £25,000 group winner bonus at the final hurdle in a week 15 loss to Wade, and will surely hunger for revenge and validation for his superb efforts in the year to date.

Cross' average score with three darts at treble 20 is nearly four points higher than Wade's, and on treble 19 the advantage is even larger: Cross not only throws about three times as many darts at treble 19, but is 13% more likely than Wade to score 57 when he does so.

These factors combined result in Cross reaching an average score of 176 after nine darts, while Wade only manages to reach a score of 186.

After those nine darts, Cross has also been more likely set up and to finish in haste than Wade; while Cross and Wade both landed 14 checkouts of 101+ in this year's Premier League, Wade needed 12 more attempts than Cross to reach that number.

Cross has also amply punished his opponents when they make the mistake of leaving him on double 16; Cross has yet to fail to finish when he is given three darts from 32 (12 of 12), and has missed so rarely when given 2 darts (14 of 19) that most players would be pleased to check out 74% when given three darts rather than two.

Cross leads in probabilities of throwing 12-dart legs, and of throwing 15-darters throughout the Premier League campaign; his blowout losses to Michael van Gerwen are the only blemishes on what is otherwise an exceptional result from 15 weeks of difficult matches.

Wade has a few tricks up his sleeve which have kept him in good stead in his professional career: his unrivalled proficiency on his favourite double, double ten; his high completion rate on small combination checkouts, and his very low rate of both stray darts (1s and 5s when attempting treble 20, for example) and very high rate of two-treble scoring visits.

These factors explain how a player who hits far fewer 180s than any of his Premier League opponents can, as in Liverpool last month, average nearly 14 points less than his opponent and still come away with a draw.

Yet a Wade cynic could easily look back on his duel with Cross last week and note that Wade was not able to bring many of his usual talents to bear, including his missing two fistfuls of darts at double ten, and that it was an uncharacteristically inaccurate scoring performance from Cross which turned the tables in Wade's favour.

But if there is one element of the game of darts at which Wade excels, it is his ability to manage the margin of matches; maintaining a sufficiently consistent performance to both avoid blowouts in the total score of legs and to score well enough within each leg to secure at least one attempt at a checkout for which he has a high probability of completion.

Maybe the match will come down to something as fickle as a missed bullseye finish in the end, given the high probability that this match will be a close one due to their prior record of fiercely-contested encounters.

And while Cross continues to hit the bullseye in 2019 more than 35% of the time, Wade has the edge again, by virtue of his 38% completion rate (barely less than MvG's).

No matter how high Cross' average turns out to be, or how many 12-darters he throws, Wade has the ability at all times to rob him of the glory he would otherwise deserve.

Follow Christopher Kempf on Twitter @Ochepedia

Semi-Finals Match Odds
1/5 Michael Van Gerwen v Daryl Gurney 7/2
8/13 Rob Cross v James Wade 13/10

Unibet Premier League of Darts – Outright
Michael Van Gerwen - 1/2
Rob Cross - 4/1
James Wade - 7/1