India’s Sourabh Verma brought some cheer for the home contingent as he entered the men’s singles final at Syed Modi International badminton tournament with a thrilling semi-final win in Lucknow on Saturday.

Verma, the former national champion, beat world No. 44 Heo Kwang Hee 21-17, 16-21, 21-18 in a 75-minute thriller.

With the win, Verma ensured there will be Indian interest on the finals day in Lucknow as he is the only host shuttler to enter a title clash. He also has a shot to retain the title in the family with younger brother Sameer Verma having won the men’s singles title in the previous two editions. In fact, Sourabh Verma has the chance to make sure that India win the men’s singles title for the fifth year on the trot.

Verma will take on eighth seed Wang Tzu Wei in the final on Sunday. The Taiwanese had dispatched former World No 1 Son Wan Ho in straight games earlier. Verma has a 1-1 head-to-head record against Wang who is ranked 22nd in the world.

The world No 36 was involved in a bruising battle against the South Korean.

The 26-year-old Sourabh Verma has won four Super 100 titles in his career so far and this will be a good chance for him to earn the first Super 300 title.

In a semi-final that witnessed brilliant of twists and turns, it was Verma who drew first blood. The had a 11-7 lead heading into the mid-game interval after playing a clean game with the highlight being a delightful drop shot at the net that wrong-footed Heo. The Korean was making plenty of errors early on, but Verma was dictating the tempo in fine style, helped by his rock-solid defensive skills. But it was then that Heo started finding his footing and despite Verma clinching the opener 21-17, it was clear that there was more to come from the Korean.

In the second game, the rallies got longer and Heo’s lead was getting bigger too with increasing time spent on the court. The Korean, who seemed to have the edge in terms of attacking skills, went up 10-6 before Verma produced two good smashes to close the gap down. Then it was Heo’s turn to produce a winning smash and take a 11-8 lead into the interval. There was a brilliant 38-shot rally where both players refused to give up and kept returning the shuttle in play before Korean clinched the point. Despite Verma fighting hard, Heo forced the decider.

The physical nature of the match was starting to take a toll on both players but early on in the decider it looked like Verma was the one struggling more. Especially when he hit a flat push into the net when he had the point for the taking perhaps indicated that he was running out of steam. But, egged on by a vociferous home crowd, Verma took a 11-10 lead into the final change of ends. And even when it looked like Heo had the game in his pocket while leading 15-13, Verma kept fighting back and eventually prevailed. A backhand crosscourt flick by Verma to level the score at 18-18 was the highlight of the decider.

And as he clinched the match, the crowd roared the loudest on the night as Verma made sure they have someone to cheer for on the final day of action.

Earlier in the day, in the women’s singles final, India’s Rituparna Das was knocked out in straight games by Thailand’s Chaiwan. The Thai teenager will take on Olympic champion Carolina Marin in the final.

(Details to follow)