A TEETH-GRINDING, back and forth, neck to neck thriller unfolder between Bengaluru Bulls and Bengal Warriors tonight, as both teams featuring new-look squads got their seasons off the ground. And it was the Bulls who, thanks to a last-minute all-out they managed to bag, came out victorious by a narrow margin of 1 point (24-23).
The contest saw a slow start with both teams mostly working their defence, reluctant to go full throttle before figuring out the opponents' strategy. Bengaluru Bulls' new recruit Mohit Chillar was effective from the start, helping trap Surjeet Narwal to get the first point of the game. For Bengal Warriors, Nilesh Shinde blocked Rohit Kumar for the first point, and debutant Monu Goyat got a toe touch on his debut raid in PKL. 1-2.
Vinod Kumar of Bengaluru came raiding, and got a bit too greedy for the bonus point. The risk got him caught. But Chillar made up for it by trapping Goyat, making the scoreline 3-3.
The defenders dominated the game from here on, with Bengal's Surjeet Narwal and Rohit Kumar as well as Bengaluru's Pawan Kumar and Vinod Kumar running unsuccessful raids. 14 minutes into the game, the score was a neck-to-neck 5 each.
The game's momentum shifted late in the first half when Rohit Kumar ran the first successful raid for Bengaluru. Monu Goyat turned up the heat for Bengal, running one succesful raid anad then getting caught. 7-7.
17 minutes in, Bengaluru's Vinod Kumar came on a do-or-die raid. Nilesh lunged at him but Vinod made a perfectly timed jump to escape his hold. Then Rohit Kumar came raiding and escaped a mass onslaught, reaching the centre line with a vault and getting 2 touches along the way. 10-8.
But then Jang Kun Lee, the star raider for Bengal Warriors who had just come on as a substitute, risked it, went deep, invited the attack and managed to get his hand on the line after getting 3 touches: the first ever super raid of the season. This allowed Bengal Warriors to finish the first half with a hairline lead of 10-11.
Early in the second half, Bengal substituted Nitin Madane with Ravi Kumar. The second half began slowly as well, with Pawan and Gotat ran successful one-touch raids and Rohit got trapped by Bengal defenders, taking score to 11-13.
Reduced to 2 men, Bengaluru Bulls were now cornered. But Monu Goyat came raiding, Surender Nada lashed out and got hold of him, pulling off the first super tackle of the game. 13-13.
Bengal lashed out. Nilesh and Girish combined to trap Pawan Kumar. Then Lee raided Surender Nada out. 13-15. Once again close to an all-out, Bengaluru brought on raider Deepak Kumar as a substitute for Vinod Kumar. Deepak ran his first raid and as Nilesh and Lee combined to try and hold him, he managed to escape. 15-15.
Reduced to only defenders on the mat, Bengal relaced Ravi Kumar with Nitin Madane. And Nitin ran a successful raid. Then Bengaluru's Ashish Kumar got trapped. Now the Bulls were reduced to 1 man on the mat, and Monu Goyat had an easy time getting the touch and scoring the first all-out of the match. Suddenly, Bengal had a 6 point lead. 15-21.
Bengaluru needed a comeback. And they tried to chip away at the deficit. They trapped Monu Goyat and Rohit Kumar ran two successful raids in a row. Then they managed to trap Nilesh Shinde as well. Suddenly, the lead wasn't too high any more. With 2 minutes left, The scoreline read 19-22.
For the Bulls, it was now or never. And Rohit Kumar took over the final charge. He ran two back to back successful raids, reducing Bengal to one man: Nitin Madane.
Nitin now had one good raid left in the game, and the scoreline was 21-22. Knowing the return raid would be an easy opportunity for Bengaluru to get the all-out points, Nitin lingered long in his final raid, got the bonus point, but as he was making his return he was swarmed. Bengaluru Bulls had gotten the all-out with seconds to spare. The score now was 24-23, in their favour. It was up to Rohit Kumar now to run a safe empty raid and see the clock out.
A thrilling, cerebral contest came to a heart-stopping finish, as these two heavyweights played out the first 1-point margin game of the PKL 4. And once again, it was calm nerves and a controlled burst of skill in the final minutes that made that narrow difference between the two teams. Rohit Kumar, with 16 total points, was deservedly chosen the best raider of the match, while Surender Nada, formerly of U Mumba, got the best defender award on his Bulls debut. And the effort put in by both ensured that Bengaluru got their campaign off to a winning start.