Naveen Kumar was once again the hero for Dabang Delhi as they beat Gujarat Fortunegiants 34-30 in a Pro Kabaddi League match at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune on Sunday.
Naveen Kumar picked up another Super 10 (13th consecutive) as Delhi produced a composed performance, despite being closely challenged in the second half by Fortunegiants, to pick up five points and consolidate their stay at the top of the points table.
The initial minutes of the match suggested it would be a closely-fought encounter with both defences looking sharp.
Ravinder Pahal pulled off two successful tackles for the Delhi side while, at the other end, Ruturaj Koravi was looking in form.
But Naveen had other plans, as he unlocked the Gujarat defence with a five-point raid in the ninth minute to clinch an All-Out for Delhi.
The restart didn’t bring good fortunes for Fortunegiants, with their raiders looking rather one-dimensional against a Delhi defence that was slowly growing in stature.
The first half ended with Naveen claiming another two-point raid that reduced Gujarat to a single player and gave Delhi an 11-point lead (20-9).
Sadly for Delhi, both Meraj Sheykh and Anil Kumar had to be substituted due to injuries.
Delhi secured their second All-Out in the first move of the second half but the restart marked the revival for last season’s runners-up Fortunegiants.
Pankaj, playing in the left corner for Gujarat, ensured Naveen Kumar had no influence in the game, while Rohit Gulia produced a quick-fire Super 10 to inflict an All-Out on Delhi (sixth minute of the second half) and reduced the margin.
Sachin also got into the act for Gujarat as the team kept pace with the Delhi side.
But Naveen’s clinical Super 10 and a dash by Vishal Mane on Gujarat’s Sachin was enough for Delhi to pick up a victory.
Pardeep Narwal, Neeraj Kumar shine for Patna
Pardeep Narwal was the star player for three-time champions Patna Pirates as they beat home team Puneri Paltan 55-33 in the second match.
The ‘Dubki King’ secured yet another Super 10 (18 raid points) as the Patna Pirates overcame a stiff challenge from Anup Kumar-coached Puneri Paltan to secure their third win on the trot. It wasn’t just Pardeep who rose up to the challenge though, with Neeraj Kumar impressing in the heart of Patna’s defence with a record-equalling 11 tackle points (a record shared with Manjeet Chhillar).
The first half of the match was highly entertaining with both teams throwing caution to the wind in a raid fest. Pune’s young raider Pankaj Mohite was the first to impress with a three-point Super Raid in the fourth minute.
But Narwal was in no mood to let Pune’s raiders steal the limelight. The Patna raider took control of the proceeding as he targeted the Paltans one by one, ably supported in his defence by rejuvenated Neeraj Kumar.
The Pirates’ recent run of form (three consecutive wins) have also been largely to the presence of Korean raider Jang Kun Lee who has chipped in with valuable points as a secondary raider when Pardeep is sent to the dugout. They worked in tandem and clinched they first All-Out of the match in the 10th minute to open a five-point gap.
Patna continued pressing as Pardeep raced to his Super 10 in the dying minutes of the half. His raids, combined with Neeraj Kumar’s tackling (who also secured his High 5 in the half) gave Patna another All-Out in the last minute of the first half to open a 10-point gap (27-17) going into the break.
The second half proved to be the same for the home team as Pune struggled to reduce the points gap. Pardeep Narwal and Neeraj Kumar continued their good work in both the ends as they secured another All-Out in the 10th minute of the match.
The Pirates continued their domination till the final stages of the match with Neeraj Kumar reaching double figures for tackle points. Pardeep also overtook Naveen Kumar in raiding points for the season as Patna look all set for a good finishing phase to the season. The win helped Patna jump to 8th in the points table.