In three previous encounters in the fifth season of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), Patna Pirates failed to overcome Bengal Warriors' challenge even once. Tying two matches and losing one, the Warriors held the advantage, especially after keeping Pirates' captain and star raider Pardeep Narwal subdued for extended periods of time.
All that was a thing of the past when these two teams met once again at Chennai's Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium for the second qualifier.
At the end of 40 minutes of action, it was the men in the green and yellow who emerged victorious despite a late surge by the Kolkata-based outfit.
Though the final scoreline that read 47-44 might give the idea of a closely-contested match, the Warriors could break the shackles away only when a couple of minutes were left on the clock.
The Pirates avoided any hasty moves that could have whittled their hold on the proceedings away and ended the match with a three-point lead.
Pirates were the more aggressive side right from the first whistle. Maninder Singh, who scored 17 points for the Warriors, began the proceedings with a touch point, followed by Pardeep winning a point of his own.
Monu Goyat's first raid won him two points as the Pirates broke into the lead for the first time.
After the next Maninder raid was thwarted by the Pirates' defence, which seemed to be finally gelling well together, Pardeep pulled off something impressive yet again as a four-point raid effected an all-out on a hapless Warriors side in the third minute.
The crowd started to rally behind Pardeep and he continued to score raid points at will as the scoreline read 10-3 in favour of Pirates after five minutes of play.
However, the Warriors took him out for the next five minutes and tried to reduce the points deficit by attacking the 'weak' Pirates defence. The latter, however, stepped up to the plate and delivered one of their best performances this season as they didn't allow the raiders to collect loose points, thereby ensuring that the lead remained intact with scores at 14-6 in the 11th minute.
Even as the duo of Maninder and Deepak Narwal consistently scored raid points for the Warriors in a bid to get back into the game, Pardeep continued to amass points in a hurry.
When the half-time whistle blew, the Warriors were down by nine points. The Pirates were leading 21-12 and forced the Warriors to get back to the drawing board and re-think all their strategies as none of them seemed to be working so far.
The second half began with the familiar sight of Pardeep scoring raid points. This was followed by the Warriors' Shrikant Tewthia taking out two Pirates in a single raid to continue their quest of reaching their debut final.
The Zone B table-toppers decided to allow the Pirates to get bogged down by complacency before making the strike as they played the waiting game and preferred to attack only during the do-or-die raids. The move didn't quite work as they were facing a player like Pardeep who wanted to score with every raid.
Maninder continued to pressurise the Pirates defence but there was only so much he could do as Pardeep reached yet another Super 10 and inflicted the second all-out on the Warriors.
With scores at 28-17 and more than 15 minutes on the clock it was too early to write the Warriors off, but the Pirates were relentless in their scoring,
An official time-out at this juncture allowed the Warriors to regroup as they returned with new-found aggression. The famed Warriors defence seemed to be much more in control and it was time to step up to the plate to pull the Pirates down by a notch or two.
The Pirates had a 10-point advantage over the Warriors with 10 minutes left on the clock, with one more official time-out left.
Returning from the break, it was the Warriors who started piling on the aggression and Pirates seemed to have decided to focus on maintaining the lead to book a place in the final against Gujarat Fortunegiants.
As Maninder continued his good run in this match, it became clearer that the Warriors were focusing on mainly winning the bonus points. These points would have mattered a lot more only if it was coupled with a good number of tackle points.
While Kolkata side were adding points to their tally through these bonuses, Pardeep was scoring with his touch points and reducing the number of Warriors on the mat with every raid, which resulted in yet another all-out against the Warriors as the Pirates now led 40-27 with just six minutes to go.
Pardeep also displayed signs of his strategic approach towards the game as he decided to target Surjeet Singh for his touch points — a smart ploy by the team to focus on the best defender of the opposing side and take him out of the picture for as long as possible.
With just five minutes to go, this ploy seemed to be working for the Pirates who were leading 42-28. However, the match was far from over as Maninder and Deepak went into overdrive to win points in a flurry.
Maninder reached his Super 10 in the 37th minute of the game and the Warriors continued to trouble the Pirates defence. It was the weakened tackling abilities of the Warriors that allowed Pardeep to score 23 points in this match that helped Pirates stay just ahead of the curve.
The game still had a lot to offer and with less than a minute left on the timer, the Pirates were handed their first all-out. The Warriors were now trailing 41-46 and were snapping at the heels of the Pirates, who were confident of playing one more match this season.
The raider duo of the Warriors scored a few quick points, and were trailing by just three points at 43-46 with just 25 seconds remaining on the timer.
Though the Pirates had shifted to a defensive game to hold on to the lead, Pardeep had other plans and he once again took out Surjeet. This not only earned him a raid point but also kept the opposing captain out of action in the most crucial moment of the game.
The Warriors' last-minute heroics notwithstanding, the Pirates held on to their nerves to lead 47-44 as the final whistle blew to announce the second finalist of this edition.
At the beginning of the match, few would have thought that the Warriors side would score more raid points than the Patna raiders, while the latter's defence perform better than the Bengal side.
This unpredictable turnaround was an example of the vagaries of this sport and this time it spelled the end of the road for the Warriors, who can walk with their heads held high after their performances throughout the season.
"Two teams play in a match and one team had to lose. It is unfortunate that it was us this time, but it is okay. This is what Kabaddi is all about," said Surjeet at the post-match press conference.
It was one man who took the game away from the Warriors. One man, ably supported by his second raider and the defence, managed to take the Pirates to their third straight final.
Pardeep reached 350 raid points this season to keep the dreams of a hat-trick of titles for the Pirates alive.
They face the Fortunegiants in the final and a war of words between both these teams has already begun to kick-start the proceedings.
The best raiding team of the season will be up against the best all-round team who have made waves in their debut season and have been serious title contenders right from their home leg.
Monu, when asked about the possibility of him stepping up to the plate on a rare off-day for Pardeep said, "Without a doubt, I would step up when the team needs me to. But, Pardeep never has something called an off-day."
In the final on 28 October in Chennai, the Pirates would hope for Monu's words to ring true while the Fortunegiants will hope to stave their challenge off to finish their dream debut as title-winners.
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Updated Date: Oct 27, 2017 16:45:01 IST