Rocket can blast past lethargic Dutchman.
SIX weeks into Premier League 2010 and there is at least one very clear conclusion to draw: Ronnie Baxter is not out of his depth.
The layers don't rate the Rocket; indeed they never have. He went into the competition with a withering outright quote of 80-1 and within a fortnight he was out to 100-1. Even now he's a 40-1 shot with only Terry Jenkins below him in the betting, yet the nearly man of arrers sits in third place in the table and is playing out of his skin on a weekly basis.
His average hasn't dipped below 96 in the past five weeks, he has got into a superb rhythm and there is no reason to think that Raymond van Barneveld will blow him away in Birmingham tonight.
In fact, you could argue that Baxter should be even shorter. He was 4-0 up on Phil Taylor only to lose 8-6 and 6-4 up on Adrian Lewis only to go down 8-6. Every one of his six games has gone the distance.
Reputation dictates Barney goes to post the odds-on favourite but the formbook says Baxter is the value. Back him at 13-8 with the draw no bet.
Everyone seems to presume Barney is back to his best because he has changed his darts. But an 8-4 thrashing of Terry Jenkins two weeks ago proved little other than that Bully misses far too many doubles and that the fivetime world champ is entitled to have one stellar evening.
Last week the Dutchman drew 7-7 with Mervyn King with a modest 94 average and didn't exactly set Crawley alight in a double-header of Pro Tour action at the weekend.
Baxter was battered by Barney when they met at Alexandra Palace in December but The Rocket seems to love the Premier League format and it's hard to see how his form is going to drop.
Simon Whitlock is going through the pain barrier on his Premier League debut and it's taking its toll. The Aussie is hobbling to and from the oche courtesy of a heel injury and he looks in some discomfort.
It's affecting his performances and that leaves him vulnerable against the ultra-consistent King. He looks a must-bet at 4-5 with Boylesport and Blue Square.
In the James Wade and Terry Jenkins clash it's the leftie who is in the better form.
Wade has been playing well for several weeks but only got his first win last week with an 8-4 victory over Whitlock. It should be a high-scoring affair - it's Jenkins' doubling that is likely to let him down - and a succession of quick legs ought to see Wade's three-dart average soars above the 96.5 Boyle have him in for. He's exceeded that mark in his last four outings.
Match of the night is Phil Taylor against Adrian Lewis with young Jackpot impishly predicting an 8-0 whitewash.
Remarkably, Taylor has won the last 16 meetings between them and in five Premier League encounters Lewis has never taken more than four legs off his rival.
Quite often Lewis's head drops and his darts get ragged and it would be no surprise to see his average drop under 97.5.
Recommendations R Baxter draw no bet 2pt 13-8 general M King 2pts 4-5 Boylesports, Blue Square J Wade over 96.5 three-dart average 2pts 20-23 Boylesports A Lewis under 97.5 threedart average 1pt 20-23 Boylesports
Ronnie Baxter has been consistently underrated this year