PBL 2018 | Bengaluru Blasters edge past Ahmedabad Smash Masters to reach final

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PBL 2018 | Bengaluru Blasters edge past Ahmedabad Smash Masters to reach final

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SportsCafe Desk

01/13/2018

The second semi-final between Ahmedabad and Bengaluru remained a close affair with both teams winning their trump games and a game each to keep the score 3-3 before the mixed doubles duo of Rang and Sikki eventually won the decider. Bengaluru will now face Hyderabad Hunters in the final.

C.W. Feng vs S. Verma

Coming into the game at the back of two consecutive wins, Sourabh Verma was oozing with confidence as he took the court against Feng in the opening match. It started quite one-sidedly with Feng having no answers to Verma’s smashes, and the Malaysian’s increasing unforced errors further helped Ahmedabad’s cause as the latter led 8-1 going into the break. The game remained identical in the second half as well with the Smash Masters’ star sealing the match 15-2 without breaking any sweat whatsoever.

The Bengaluru star was expected to make a comeback in the second game and he did exactly that. He leveled things early in 2-2 making sure Sourabh didn’t run away with the game this time around before he fought his way to lead 8-6 at the break. Feng’s dominance continued after the break as his offensive approach seemed too much for Verma to handle, and even before he could realize Feng was leading 11-7. Though Verma came back to level things at 13-13 and 14-14, Fenge edged him with a brilliant smash to win the second game and level the match.

The match had turned highly competitive from the second game and the trend continued in the third game with the points reading 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6 and 7-7 before Sourabh eventually took the lead going into the break 8-7. Feng knew he still had a clear chance of winning the game and he leveled things at 9-9. However, the increasing pressure meant Feng’s unforced errors were coming to the fore once again and Sourabh was quick to capitalize on them by leading at 13-9 before sealing it 15-10.     

K.S. Rang/M.Boe vs L.C.H. Reginald/K. Nandagopal

Ahmedabad’s doubles duos have been struggling to be consistent since the very start of the campaign and Bengaluru smartly put their trump card on the game. The plan looked a successful one right from the first point as the pairing of Rang and Boe was too much to handle for Reginald and Nandagopal. Bengaluru went into the break leading 8-4 with Ahmedabad looking out of ideas. Though the Smash Masters duo did put up a stern display after the break winning two quick points, Bengaluru increased the margin to 13-7 with five straight points. In the end, Rang ended things with a beautiful jump smash to win the game 15-13.

The second game turned out to be more competitive with Ahmedabad taking the game to Bengaluru Blasters as they led at 4-3 and 7-6. But, the pairing Rang and Boe were too experienced for their opponents as they won two straight points to lead into the break 8-7. The Bengaluru duo looked extremely calm in their approach which could be seen in their convincing defence and it was just a matter of time before they could seal the match. And though Ahmedabad looked like staging a potential comeback to reduce the gap at 14-11, Rang ensured to keep them at bay with a perfectly executed smash and win it 15-12.

K. Gilmour vs T.T. Ying

With Bengaluru leading 2-1, Ahmedabad had to find a way in and they gave the responsibility to their best player, Tai Tzu Ying, who was their trump card. Barring a defeat against Chennai’s PV Sindhu, the Taiwanese had remained undefeated in the tournament. However, Scotland’s Gilmour established very early in the game that it wasn’t going to be easy for Tai, as she came back to level things at 2-2 and 6-6 before going into the break with 8-7. The game after the break saw some uncharacteristic errors by Tai, who was failing to judge Gilmour’s long shots and hit the net numerous times. Gilmour won the first game 15-8 without any problems whatsoever.

Ahmedabad was staring at elimination as Glimour’s win could send Bengaluru to the final with two games to spare. And the way Tai started the second game wasn’t encouraging either for the Smash Masters as the Taiwanese remained second best in every department with Gilmour leading 8-5 at the break. However, one wouldn’t expect the World No.1 to just fade away and Tai showed what she is made up of. She played brilliantly to come back from 12-8 down to level things at 12-12 before going on to win the game 15-13. 

The late comeback in the second game was bound to bring the much-needed confidence in the Chinese Taipei shuttler and she was leading 6-2 in the third game even before Gilmour realized it. The Scot was visibly struggling now with her unforced errors coming into the play as Tai led in the break 8-5. Though Gilmour had her moments after the break, she could only win three points before Tai sealed the deciding game 15-8. 

V. Axelsen vs H.S. Prannoy

With the game very much in Ahmedabad’s court now, Prannoy was looking at a chance to put the final nail in Bengaluru’s coffin, but with the World No.1 standing at the other end, it was definitely not going to be easy. The game started on a competitive note with Prannoy matching Axelsen stroke for stroke as he levelled points at 5-5 and 7-7 before the Indian shuttler went into the break 8-7. But, Axelsen wasn’t one to give up so easily and the Great Dane remained lightning quick to make a comeback at 8-8 before going on to take the lead and eventually winning the first game 15-11.

The second game saw nothing different. Prannoy started well leading 3-1 before Axelsen came back to level the game and eventually go into the break 8-4. The game post-break saw a rejuvenated Prannoy once again, who showed brilliant movements and shot selection to level things at 8-8, 11-11, 12-12, 13-13, and 14-14 before Axelsen eventually emerged victorious at 15-14.    

K.S. Rang/ N.S. Reddy vs L.C. Him/ K.R. Juhl

Ahmedabad were definitely the most confident side with the fate of the tie resting in the hands of their mixed doubles duo, who haven’t enjoyed a consistent run in the tournament. However, Juhl and Him started quite positively leading the first game 5-3 in no time. Rang and Reddy saw numerous unforced errors that helped Ahmedabad go into the break 8-6. However, the Bengaluru pair showed more control after the break to level things fast before they went on to win the game 15-12. 

The win in the first game looked just like the confidence that Bengaluru needed as they raced onto a 4-1 lead. However, Ahmedabad kept things alive by a thread as they came back to level things at 5-5 before going into the break 8-5. The game after the break was all tensed up with both the sides performing surprisingly under pressure as the points got leveled at 12-12 and 13-13, before the Smash Masters edged them out to win it 15-14 and keep the tie alive.

The decider remained competitive throughout the game with both the sides outplaying each other repeatedly. However, it was Bengaluru who piped their opponents this time to lead into the break 8-6. Though Ahmedabad showed glimpses of brilliance after the break, Bengaluru weren’t going to let this chance slip out of their hands as they kept their margin intact before sealing the game 15-9 and the tie 4-3. They will now play Hyderabad Hunters in the final.

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