Cheetahs turn the tables in 4 minutes
- Chennai Cheetah fight back, to trounce Delhi Wizards 6-4
- Veerasamy Raja (14th min), Vikram Pillay (65th min) strike one each as Adam Sinclair (63rd & 66th mins) and Imran Warsi add a brace (47th & 51st mins) for the Cheetahs
- Vikramjeet Singh’s four goals, including a hat-trick (11th, 27th, 38th & 68th mins) goes in vain for the Wizards
Three goals in four minutes by Chennai Cheetahs against Delhi Wizards was too much to handle for even the thrill-a-minute inaugural edition of the Bridgestone World Series Hockey!
However, the main difference between both the teams was in playing smart hockey. Cheetahs have probably learnt it the hard way that it pays to wait and pounce on the opportunties rather than panicking under pressure. At one stage, the hosts were trailing 1-3 but came back strongly to rout the visitors 6-4 in a thriller played here at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium on Wednesday. The speedy forward Adam Sinclair and Pakistani drag-flicker, Syed Imran Warsi, were their main trump cards with two goals each while Wizards’s Vikramjeet Singh was plain unlucky to end up on the losing side despite scoring four goals, including a hat-trick. He matched Len Aiyappa’s feat of scoring three out of three in his initial attempts in the penalty-corners.
Notwithstanding these personal milestones achieved in the match, the most drammatic and significant outcome is that the Cheetahs are back in contention for a berth in the semis. They have 19 points – two less than the third-placed Karnataka Lions, and are just ahead of Pune Strykers, breathing down their neck. All eight teams have just one match each to play in the league stage.
The match was also billed as a contest between the two penalty-corner specialists, Vikramjeet Singh and Imran Warsi. The former emulated the legacy of Aiyappa, blasting three goals out of his first three penalty corners, and then scored the last goal of the match in his seventh attempt, while Warsi, who woke up late, brought two late goals hitting the top of net to help the Cheetahs neutralize the three-goal deficit. Thereafter, the floodgates were open as the Cheetahs struck thrice in the space of four minutes to usher in a classic victory.
Sinclair tapped a loose ball between his marker Vikram Kant and Philip Sunkel to send a gentle scoop for Chennai’s fourth goal, and in the next minute Vikram Pillay relayed a Kamaldeep Singh’s weak rebound to extend the margin. Within two minutes, Sinclair sprinted into the circle alone, and on confronting the haplkess goalkeeper in the middle of the circle, dodged him to the left, before unleashing a blistering shot into the empty net.
A match that was tenaciously poised at 3-3 till the 61st minute turned out to be one of the most one-sided matches of the WSH, and the transformation was simply unbelievable. Cheetahs, who had lost most home matches, made up largely today with this superb comeback. Not many people would have trusted them to come back after Vikramjeet Singh’s stunning hat-trick in the initial stage. It was yet another local hero, Veerasamy Raja, who brought the home crowd on their feet when the team was passing through a tough phase. Manjit Kullu fumbled with a feed at the top of the circle, and saw Raja retrieving it inches inside the circle to send a fierce forehand that took custodian Kamaldeep Singh completely by surprise.
Raja nearly scored his second goal when he guided a high ball into the net, above the head of Kamaldeep Singh, but umpire Satinder Sharma hesitated to blow the whistle and consulted the third umpire and then pointed to a long corner. The Cheetahs forward took another shy at the goal in the 55th minute but his diving grounder missed the right post, much to the agony of the local fans.
Warsi, who appeared off-colour in the last few games, sent a high ball in his third penalty corner drill, after his two low flicks failed to get past Kamaldeep Singh earlier, for Cheetahs’ second goal midway through the third quarter. Three minutes later, he did the same off the fifth penalty corner that Vikram Pillay fetched off the feet of Vikas Sharma on the top of the circle, to bring parity. He brought up the 270th goal of the WSH. Then came the counters from Sinclair and Vikram Pillay, and the match was over within a span of four minutes.
Schedule for March 29:
Chandigarh Comets vs Karnataka Lions in Chandigarh at 7pm; Bhopal Badshahs vs Pune Strykers in Bhopal at 9pm. Live on Neo Cricket & Neo Sports.