Raptors nail Rockets in thrilling finale

Raptors nail Rockets in thrilling finale

Bengaluru Raptors celebrate after winning the Premier Badminton League at the Sree Kanteerava Indoor stadium in Bengaluru on Sunday. DH Photo/ Srikanta Sharma R

The men’s doubles pairing of Mohammed Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan delivered a smashing performance in a pulsating Premier Badminton League Season 4 final as Bengaluru Raptors edged out Mumbai Rockets 4-3 to wear their maiden crown here on Sunday.

Egged on by a raucous sold-out crowd at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium with the final delicately placed at 3-3 following four thrilling encounters, Ahsan and Setiawan soaked in all the pressure calmly before downing Kim Gi Jung and Lee Yong Dae 15-13, 15-10 in an action-packed winner-take-all rubber.

The men’s doubles match, just like the preceding four matches on the night, was intensely fought as both the teams went all out in a bid to land the first blow. Power-packed smashes, some unbelievable returns and dazzling play around the net -- the opening game of the final match had it all. Ahsan and Setiawan, though, held their composure towards the closing phases to take the upper hand.

Riding on a partisan crowd support, they jumped into an 8-3 lead in the second game as Kim and Lee appeared to be sinking under pressure. The Raptors’ camp, jumping up in delight with every point, started to smell victory but Kim and Lee refused to throw in the towel.

The crowd though didn’t give up and started screaming “Raptors, Raptors”. Drawing energy from that, Ahsan and Setiawan quickly got their act back together and produced some fine winners to slowly inch towards the finish line. They finally crossed it when Lee hit the net and the entire Raptors camp converged onto the court to celebrate a memorable triumph.

Earlier, Rockets drew first blood when Kim Gi Jung and Pia Zebadiah Bernadet dispatched Raptors’ weak link Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith 15-8, 15-4 in their Trump game to instantly jump to a 2-0 lead.

Raptors’ captain Kidambi Srikanth, however, delivered a masterful performance, hammering Anders Antonsen 15-7, 15-10 to make it 1-2 before Thi Thrang Vu, playing her Trump match, put the hosts 3-2 ahead by outclassing Shreyanshi Pardeshi 15-8, 15-9.

In-form singles player B Sai Praneeth then had a great chance to secure the title for Raptors. He started off brilliantly but was soon undone by the brilliance and resilience of Sameer Verma, who posted a 7-15, 15-12, 15-3 win.

It all then hinged on the men’s doubles game and Ahsan and Setiawan kept their cool amidst high pressure to send everyone at the venue into delirium.

Results: Bengaluru Raptors bt Mumbai Rockets 4-3 (Marcus Ellis/ Lauren Smith lt to Kim Gi Jung/ Pia Zebadiah Bernadet (T) 8-15, 14-15; Kidambi Srikanth bt Anders Antonsen 15-7, 15-10; Thi Thrang Vu (T) bt Shreyanshi Pardeshi 15-8, 15-9; B Sai Praneeth lt to Sameer Verma 15-7, 12-15, 3-15; Mohammed Ahsan/ Hendra Setiawan bt Kim Gi Jung/ Lee Yong Dae 15-13, 15-10).