A SUPERB ALL-ROUND performance from Rajesh Narwal and the thoughtful, calculative leadership of Jasvir Singh helped Jaipur Pink Panthers trump Telugu Titans 28-24 in a neck-to-neck game and begin their home leg of PKL 4 in a winning note.
The match was on an even keel from the beginning. Jaipur had Jasvir Singh tackled on his first raid and replied with successful raids from Shabeer Bapu and Rajesh Narwal. The Titans picked their own points thanks to raids from Jasvir Singh and Nilesh Salunke. 5-5.
The defenders came to the fore again. The Pathers' Jasvir Singh, Tushar Patil and Rajesh Narwal was caught again and so did Titans' Sukesh Hegde, Nilesh Salunke and Vinoth Kumar. 14 minutes in, Jaipur had a slight advantage at 9-8.
Jasvir Singh went raiding again, and got tackled. Trying to come help, Nilesh slipped and went into the lobby without a touch. Jasvir tried his best to get something on the centre line but fell just short. It was one point to each team, 10-10.
Towards the end of the half Telugu Titans built a slender lead by a Vinoth Kumar successful raid and a trapping of Shabeer Bapu. But when Vinoth Kumar came raiding in the 20th minute Tushar Patil got a stranglehold on him. Since the Panthers had only 3 on the mat, it was the first super tackle of the match. Immediately, the score was level again at 12-12. That's where the first half ended.
Sandeep Narwal got a touch for the Titans. Nilesh Salunke managed to get 2 points for the Titans. Jasvir Singh followed up with a 2-pointer raid of his own. And Titans' Vinoth Kumar went too deep and got his feet knocked out from under him. By 25 minutes, Jaipur were 16-14 up.
The defence came to the fore again with Vinoth, Jasvir, new substitute K Prapanjan, Tushar Patil and Athul MS getting caught. Jaipur maintained the slender lead of 18-16.
But then Rajesh Narwal turned the face of the game. He went raiding and took two defenders with him to the centre line. And when Sandeep Narwal came raiding Rajesh launched a leaping tackle on him. Telugu Titans were all-out for the first time and suddenly Jaipur Pink Panthers had a 24-17 lead.
The Titans tried to come back. Rahul Chaudhari ran a successful raid and they caught Jawahar, but then both Rahul and Vinoth got trapped. It was 26-19 with 4 minutes left on the clock.
The Titans caught Ajay Kumar and Sandeep Narwal got a touch. But now it was 27-22, and Jasvir Singh had a plan chalked to see out the last minute. He himself went on a raid and saw out all 30 seconds. Then Sandeep Narwal came and despite Jasvir's insistance to stay safely away two defenders attempted to tackle him and ended up handing Narwal 2 points. With seconds left, it was 27-24.
Jasvir did the last raid, and just stood there for nearly 20 seconds. Then he casually went charging at the Titans defenders and got a touch with a back kick and came safely back. The opponents did not have a chance. It was Jaipur's game, ending 28-24.
It was two defining masterstrokes that tilted this otherwise neck-to-neck game in Jaipur's favour, and they will be glad to begin their journey in their home leg with a win. But with back to back games coming up in the next few nights, they will need to make sure the players are not tired out. In PKL, the home leg is the toughest test for the team to pull through and for the Pink Pathers, it has just begun.