BRILLIANT BUNTING CLAIMS HUMPHRIES SCALP AT CAZOO MASTERS

Stephen Bunting delivered a masterclass in big finishing to dump out World Champion Luke Humphries on Day Two at the Cazoo Masters, as Michael van Gerwen ended Chris Dobey’s bid for back-to-back titles in Milton Keynes.

Saturday’s double session saw eight second round ties take place at the Marshall Arena, with Humphries, reigning champion Dobey and 2023 World Champion Michael Smith all crashing out.

World number one Humphries was beaten 10-7 by an inspired Bunting, who registered a quartet of ton-plus checkouts to boost his hopes of landing a first televised PDC title.

Bunting made a blistering start to proceedings, opening his account with back-to-back 13-darters, and maintaining his two-leg buffer with a 130 checkout in leg four.

Humphries replied with 117 and 145 finishes midway through the contest, although he was unable to reel in a relentless Bunting, who landed a brace of 110 checkouts to retain his advantage.

Humphries – who averaged 99 in defeat – also fired in a stunning 140 outshot in leg 12, but a sensational 146 combination from Bunting in the penultimate leg catapulted him to victory.

“It’s a massive confidence boost for me,” admitted Bunting, who fought back from 5-2 down to deny Ross Smith in Friday’s first round.

“When you’re playing against the World Champion and world number one, you know you’ve got to produce something close to your best, and I think my finishing tonight got me over the line.

“I feel like I’m playing the best darts I’ve ever played, and I believe I can win again.”

Dobey, meanwhile, was brushed aside by five-time champion Van Gerwen, who punished a below-par display from the defending champion to run out an emphatic 10-4 winner.

Dobey drew first blood in 14 darts before Van Gerwen won the next six legs without reply, and the Dutch superstar raised his game in the latter stages to ignite his bid for a record-extending sixth Masters crown.

“I can’t complain too much,” insisted the three-time World Champion, who averaged 96 and crashed in five 180s.

“It wasn’t the best performance, but I think I played some really good darts towards the end of the match.

“I’ve been waiting a few years for this title, but I feel sharp, I feel comfortable, and I’m just focused on beating whoever is in my path.”

World number three Smith was another high-profile casualty in Milton Keynes, succumbing 10-6 a clinical Dimitri Van den Bergh in the evening’s finale.

Van den Bergh rattled in 120, 132 and 150 finishes to send Smith packing, just days after the St Helens star claimed the spoils on Night One of the Premier League in Cardiff.

Earlier in the day, 2020 champion Peter Wright returned to winning ways with a hard-fought 10-8 win against Krzysztof Ratajski.

Ratajski launched a valiant fightback from 6-0 down to threaten an improbable turnaround, but two-time World Champion Wright kept his cool to progress, hitting ten of his 18 attempts at double.

“I’m happy with the win,” reflected Wright, who will face Bunting in Sunday’s opening quarter-final.

“I wanted to keep Krzysztof at bay, because I knew he wasn’t playing well early on, and I managed to find some good shots when I needed them.

“I’m nowhere near the level I want to be at, but the mindset is there. I feel more determined than ever, and once I get settled, I’ll start playing proper darts.”

Elsewhere, Damon Heta produced another ton-topping average to move through to the quarter-finals, defying a late fightback from 2023 runner-up Rob Cross to win through a high-quality contest.

The Australian established a 9-5 lead before Cross reduced the arrears with three consecutive legs, only for Heta to respond with a superb 11-dart hold to triumph with a 102 average.

In the afternoon’s opener, two-time runner-up Dave Chisnall withstood a late rally from world number seven Danny Noppert to book his place in Sunday’s final day of action.

Chisnall, who averaged 109.26 in his opening round demolition of Martin Schindler, recovered from a 4-2 deficit to deny Noppert, winning seven of the next nine legs on his way to a 10-8 victory.

World Matchplay champion Nathan Aspinall overcame a struggling Dirk van Duijvenbode to kick off his campaign, converting 125 and 110 combinations to close out a comfortable 10-5 success.

Aspinall’s reward is a meeting with Daryl Gurney, who capitalised on his late call-up to dump out 2022 champion Joe Cullen in a gruelling encounter, after Cullen squandered three darts to level at nine apiece.

Sunday’s final stages will see the quarter-finals take place in the afternoon, which will be followed by the semi-finals and final in a bumper evening session.

Sunday’s play will be broadcast live on ITV4 in the UK, through the PDC’s worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and Viaplay, and on PDCTV (excluding Germany, Austria & Switzerland based subscribers).

2024 Cazoo Masters

Saturday February 3

Afternoon Session

4x Second Round

Dave Chisnall 10-8 Danny Noppert

Damon Heta 10-8 Rob Cross

Peter Wright 10-8 Krzysztof Ratajski

Daryl Gurney 10-8 Joe Cullen

Evening Session

4x Second Round

Nathan Aspinall 10-5 Dirk van Duijvenbode

Stephen Bunting 10-7 Luke Humphries

Michael van Gerwen 10-4 Chris Dobey

Dimitri Van den Bergh 10-6 Michael Smith

Sunday February 4

Afternoon Session (1245 GMT)

Quarter-Finals

Stephen Bunting v Peter Wright

Nathan Aspinall v Daryl Gurney

Michael van Gerwen v Dave Chisnall

Dimitri Van den Bergh v Damon Heta

Evening Session (1900 GMT)

Semi-Finals

Bunting/Wright v Aspinall/Gurney

Van Gerwen/Chisnall v Van den Bergh/Heta

Final

Bunting/Wright/Aspinall/Gurney v Van Gerwen/Chisnall/Van den Bergh/Heta

Photo credit Taylor Lanning/PDC

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