Bulls tame Panthers, reach semis

Bulls tame Panthers, reach semis

Bangalore outfit hold nerve in thriller to set up last-four clash with U Mumba

Bulls tame Panthers, reach semis

Bengaluru Bulls tripped, stumbled and crawled but ultimately made the semifinals of the Pro Kabaddi League after a come-from-behind 30-29 victory over table-toppers Jaipur Pink Panthers here at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Wednesday.

Having made a habit of giving heart-stopping moments to their fans right until the final second in previous games, Wednesday was no different as they took the lead with only seven minutes left on the clock. Jaipur then bounced back to level the scores with just a few raids remaining but the hosts’ showed enough gumption to drag themselves over the line.

After the Bulls’ stars, Ajay Thakur and Manjeet Chillar, earned their side three points, they took a four point lead.

Panthers’ Maninder Singh then reduced the deficit to two before Bulls employed time-wasting tactics as Dharmaraj Cheralathan ate up time on his raid. With time remaining for only one raid and Bulls still leading by two, Cheralathan than sacrificed himself to leave  the Bulls victorious by a point.

Bulls, who needed a strong showing on their home turf to qualify for the semis, even leapfrogged Patna Pirates (45 points) to third place on the table with 47 points as the league phase of the tournament concluded in front of another lively crowd.

Bulls will face U Mumba in the semifinal in Mumbai on Friday while Pirates will face the Panthers in the other semifinal.  The victory will certainly give confidence to the Bulls as they seemed headed for defeat for much of the game. In a first half which could have done with a large dose of pace, Panthers’ Maninder (12 raid points in the game) seemed to be on a mission to eliminate Bulls on his own.

After his first raid took out two Bulls’ antis, he returned to claim three outs which ultimately resulted in a lona for the away side. With the Bulls trailing 9-16 at one stage, there were a few anxious faces in the crowd, which included the likes of Abhishek Bachchan, owners of the Panthers, former India Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and cricketer Robin Uthappa.

Bulls’ Ajay and Deepak Kumar, who kept chipping away with crucial raids all through the game, significantly closed the gap in the second stanza.

Even then, Panthers, who had only lost once before, seemed assured of victory. But a lona in the 33rd minute saw the tide turn. The home side, roared on by a raucous crowd, were happy to oblige.

U Mumba finish second

Earlier on Wednesday, U Mumba sneaked past basement dwellers Puneri Paltan 39-38 to cement second place with 51 points.

Trying to salvage some pride in what could be called as the Maharashtra Derby, Paltans’ skipper Wazir Singh went for the final raid with the intention of outing a few antis but they got the better of him as the clock showed that the time was up.

The caravan now moves back to where it all began for the knockout phase of the event. The semifinals would be held on Friday with the third-fourth place play-off and the final scheduled two nights later..

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