Michael van Gerwen’s nine-dart finish and other moments of perfection by ordinary people

Paul Howarth
Michael van Gerwen 300x225 Michael van Gerwens nine dart finish and other moments of perfection by ordinary people

Michael van Gerwen

World darts champion elect, Michael van Gerwen, last night hit a magnificent nine-dart finish in his semi-final against James Wade.  It’s always a special moment when you witness sporting perfection – a hole-in-one, a 147, a 300-point ten-pin bowling game – but in van Gerwen’s case, there was something inevitable about his achievement.  His trebling in this tournament has been nothing short of astonishing; in his previous match against reigning champ Adrian Lewis, van Gerwen nailed more treble twenties than singles (170-odd against 140-odd).  So, whilst still a huge thrill to watch, the nine-darter wasn’t the biggest surprise in the world.  Had he completed a second in the very next leg – eight perfect darts were followed by a double-twelve attempt that missed by a millimetre – that really would’ve been something.

This year’s tournament at the Alexandra Palace saw the return to the world stage of Paul Lim.  In 1990, Lim made history by becoming the first player to take out a nine-dart finish in what was then the Embassy World Championship.  Unlike van Gerwen’s, Lim’s feat came right out of the blue.  He had never been further than the second round of the Worlds and most of his tournament success was achieved in less competitive events in Asia.  He was, in short, a decent player at world level but no more than that.  If anyone were going to do it, it would surely be Bristow, Wilson or Lowe (the only man at the time to have a televised nine-darter to his name).  But here he was, this unassuming naturalised American, demonstrating a steady throwing arm and unerring accuracy, and prompting some bizarre commentary from Tony Green: “Yes.  Yes!!  Yes!!!” (on the second 180); then, after the final dart, the wonderfully circular: “Is he excited?  We are.  Is he happy?  We are.  And with fifty-two thousand pound [sic] in the bank, so is he.”

Lim faced a certain Michael van Gerwen in the first round this year.  He lost, of course, but not before taking out a maximum 170 finish.  Proof that he still has the capacity for perfection.

David Lloyd 214 not out versus India

Dear old Bumble.  Without doubt one of the most eccentric, charismatic and amusing commentators there is.  One of his stock phrases is “Start the car!”, indicating that a match is nearing its climax.  A couple of years ago, when the World Cup was held on the Indian sub-continent, Lloyd adapted this to “Start the tuk tuk!”  I almost fell of the sofa laughing.  An absolute genius.

But even Lloyd himself might acknowledge that he was less of a superstar as a player.  His first-class batting average was 33, he bowled decent slow left-armers and he helped Lancashire to four Gillette Cups in the early-mid 70s.  A good, talented, whole-hearted cricketer, no doubt, but not a world beater.  Nevertheless, he was drafted in to the Test team in 1974 to replace the self-exiled Geoff Boycott as opener.  In just his second match, against India at Edgbaston, Lloyd made 214 not out as England racked up 459/2 declared.

A Test match double hundred is a rare treasure.  By way of illustration, and to take a period of time not quite at random, it’s worth noting that between June 1930 and February 1933, only six doubles were scored in all Test cricket.  All of them by Don Bradman.  For Lloyd to add his name to the ranks of Test double-centurions, then, was a noteworthy achievement.

Sadly for Lloyd, he had a torrid time at the hands of Lillee and Thompson on the following winter’s Ashes tour.  He was injured, came home and never played another Test match.  His Test career spanned nine matches over seven months.  Years later, the peerless John Arlott wrote that Lloyd had been ‘effectively shocked and shattered out of Test cricket.’

Coventry City 1987 FA Cup

Coventry were 70/1 with the bookmakers to lift the 1987 FA Cup.  I know this because a few years later I met a chap called Bernard who would have a tenner on them every year.  The £700 he trousered that year will, I’m guessing, just about allow him to break even over his lifetime.

Sorry, Tottenham fans, but everyone apart from you lot was cheering on the Sky Blues on 16 May 1987.  It was classic FA Cup.  The footballing aristocrats from North London versus the blue-collars from the industrial West Midlands.  How could the Lilywhites, boasting such talents as Hoddle, Waddle and Ardiles, be upstaged by the likes of Lloyd McGrath, Greg Downs and Micky Gynn?  [Clearly what swayed it for Coventry was having future Ipswich playmaker Steve Sedgley on the bench.]  This was Tottenham Hotspur, for God’s sake, bidding for an eighth FA Cup success.  The club had never lost in the final.

Having fallen behind to the prolific Clive Allen’s early goal – his 49th of the season – Coventry twice came from behind to level the score at 2-2 after 90 minutes.  Their second equaliser, Keith Houchen’s flying header, is one of the most famous goals in Wembley history and earned the player that season’s BBC Goal Of The Season award.  In extra time, the footballing gods decreed that Gary Mabbutt should be the fall guy of the piece and it was his unfortunate own goal that handed the redoubtable Sky Blues victory.  Captain Brian ‘Killer’ Kilcline’s primal roar as he lifts the trophy is an enduring image.  As for Mabbutt, well, he too is immortalised in the Coventry fanzine GMK – Gary Mabbutt’s Knee.

The 1987 FA Cup remains Coventry’s only major trophy in their 93-year history.

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  • Greedy Ginger Pig

    Journeyman pitcher Philip Humber threw a perfect game for the White Sox last year (the 21st in Major League history). Humber found perfection in his his 30th start, and first complete game, but it had taken him six years and four clubs to get to reach that tally. He allowed 20 runs in his next three games, strained his elbow and was dropped from the starting rotation.

  • Bollins

    Huzzah for the brave sky blues! Irritatingly, the following year Wimbledon beat Liverpool and Coventry’s astonishing feat of giant-killing was eclipsed (wrongly in my view) in the public imagination by a rather poor relation from 1988.
    And in case anyone’s interested, can I draw your attention to the re-run of the 1987 final in the third round this weekend? I predict City to win 3-2 thanks to a late Tottenham own goal…

  • paul_howarth

    Excellent example. A mediocre player (I’m guessing, baseball not being an area of expertise for me) who suddenly does something incredible, then returns to the anonymity from whence he came.

  • Bollins

    Until a late re-flowering (is that a word) might one have said Paul Lawrie (Open champion, relative obscurity thereafter – but only until the 2012 Ryder Cup…)?

  • paul_howarth

    Lawrie was an ordinary winner of the Open alright, as were Todd Hamilton and Ben Curtis. And he earned valuable points for Europe this year whilst doing a brilliant Les Dawson impersonation.

  • Barry Jessup

    Great stuff. Let me add a couple:

    1) Graham Napier’s 152 not out from just 5 balls in a T20 match for Essex against Sussex in 2008 breaking the world records for the most sixes (16) and the most runs scored in boundaries (136). Career T20 batting average is 15.

    2) Timmy Smith ran for a Superbowl record 204 yards and 2 touchdowns for the Washington Redskins in 1988. In his total NFL career he managed a total of only 602 yards and 3 touchdowns.

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