Hyderabad Hunters beat Bengaluru Blasters to become PBL champions

Hyderabad Hunters beat Bengaluru Blasters to become PBL champions

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Hyderabad Hunters edged past Bengaluru Blasters 4-3 in a thrilling finale that went down to the wire, to lift the title in the third edition of PBL. After Hyderabad's Carolina Marin and Lee Hyun IL won their respective matches to level things at 3-3, Rankireddy and Bernadeth won the deciding match.

Hyderabad started the tie with a defeat as their men’ doubles pair of Markis Kido & Yoo Yeon Seong failed to overcome Bengaluru’s Mathias Boe & Kim Sa Rang. The doubles duo of Bengaluru extended their winning streak from the semi-final as the match ended 9-15, 10-15 with Kido and Seong easily being brushed aside. 

It remained mostly a one-sided affair with Hyderabad hardly posing any fight whatsoever. Kido, who had successfully controlled the game from the back of the court for most of the tournament, was unable to execute his powerful smashes on the evening. His coordination with partner Seong also remained patchy as the towering Boe could easily exploit the vast open spaces in the court. 

Hyderabad’s trump card Lee Hyun IL came next with his side trailing by a point. The Korean ace was the clear favourite against Subhankar and he dictated the pace and tone of the match as expected. His unbreakable defensive play could return almost everything Subhankar brought to him as he emerged victorious at the end of most of the long rallies. He won the first game 15-7 without breaking any sweat.

Though a strong start by Subhankar saw the Korean trailing in the second game, owing to unforced errors, he made amends for it by coming back from being down at 0-2 and 1-4 to lead 6-4. Though the Bengaluru shuttler posed a strong comeback to level things at 10-10 and 13-13, the outcome was never in doubt, as IL sealed the match 15-13 giving his side the lead. 

Axelsen came next to face B Sai Praneeth, which turned out to be a walk in the park for the Danish ace, who was also Bengaluru’s trump card. After demolishing HS Prannoy, who has arguably been the best Indian shuttler in PBL, in the last game, Praneeth wasn’t expected to stand up to Axelsen’s smashes. He won the match 15-5, 15-10 showing authority and poise.  This restored the lead for the Blasters at 3-2 at the midway stage. 

However, parity was soon restored as former World No. 1 Carolina Marin won her match in two straight sets against Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour. Gilmour had given Tai Tzu Ying a real scare in the last game before the Taiwanese managed to win the match by the skin of her teeth. However, Gilmour couldn’t break the immaculate control Marin on her game. 

Though after winning the first game quite comfortably at 15-8, the Spaniard also had her precarious moments at the initial stages of the second game, when Kirsty fought back from 4-8 down to make it 11-9, the Spaniard kept her cool and finished things off at 15-14.

The decider of the championship was to be played between the pairing of Rankireddy/ Bernadeth and Rang/Reddy. The Hyderabad duo put up a dominant display right from the beginning leaving Rang and Reddy no chance whatsoever. After winning the first game 15-11, the towering figure of Satwiksairaj showed his clash with a flurry of powerful strokes to set up their well-deserved victory for the home side. 

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