Naveen Kumar was the star as Dabang Delhi on Wednesday beat defending champions Bengaluru Bulls 44-38 to book their berth in the summit clash against Bengal Warriors in seventh season of Pro Kabaddi in Ahmedabad on Wednesday.
This is the first appearance in the final for both teams as the league is guaranteed a new champion in 2019.
In the second semi-final, Bengal Warriors were made to sweat in the final stages as U Mumba staged a stunning fightback but even in the absence of Maninder Singh, the Kolkata side managed to hang on for a 37-35 win.
In the first semi-final, the Delhi team produced an all-round performance, with Naveen impressing with his raids (15 raid points) and Anil Kumar dominating with his tackles (4 points) to win in front of a packed stadium.
The Bulls, just like in the Eliminator against UP Yoddha, had a slow start, with Delhi dominating the first few plays. Ravinder Pahal seemed keen to maintain his dominance in duels against Pawan Sehrawat and started the match with a clean ankle hold of the star raider.
Delhi dominated in all departments, with Naveen spearheading the attack, and inflicted the first All-Out of the match in the fifth minute to open up a six-point lead.
Sehrawat, who once again waged a lone battle, secured a three-point Super Raid in the seventh minute to reduce the margin but Delhi maintained their momentum thanks to an unstoppable Naveen. They inflicted another All-Out in the 13th minute to open up an 11-point lead as the Delhi raider secured another Super 10; his 20th consecutive.
Naveen did make a rookie error as he failed to complete a raid on time which gave the Bulls some hope going into the break. Delhi led Bulls 26-18 at half time.
The Bulls opted for a more aggressive approach in the second half with the defenders consistently getting better of the Delhi raiders in do-or-die situations.
But what makes Delhi a complete unit is the presence of versatile all-rounders and the likes of Chandran Ranjit and Vijay stepped up with valuable raid and tackle points to always maintain a healthy lead through the match.
Sehrawat completed his Super 10 but Delhi tackled him successfully on a consistent basis to not let him inspire another comeback.
Delhi were aware of what Sehrawat could do on the mat and were keen on keeping the league’s best raider in the dugout as much as possible. Bulls’ star raider spent more than 20 minutes away from the mat as they struggled to reduce Delhi’s lead.
At the other end, Delhi ensured Naveen spent lesser time on the bench than his counterpart, and that helped them ensure another All-Out with three minutes left in the match to open up a 9-point lead.
Despite Sehrawat’s attempts in the last few minutes, Delhi defenders held firm to clinch a berth in the grand finale on Saturday.
In the second match, Warriors managed to hang on in the dying minutes against U Mumba despite holding a healthy lead for most of the match. The Mumbai franchise were inspired a four-point raid late in the match by Ajinkya Kapre. In the final raid of the match, with the clock winding down, Arjun Deshwal needed to pick up a point to force extra time but Warriors defence held strong to force the tackle.
For Warriors, Sukesh Hegde was the key raider, with eight points while Rinku Narwal picked up four tackle points. Abhishek Singh had a Super 10 for U Mumba.