Substitute Ajinkya Pawar was the star of the night as he scored 11 points in 11 raids to help Tamil Thalaivas post a comfortable 36-26 win over Puneri Paltan in match 23 of the Pro Kabaddi League at The Sheraton Grand on Friday. The win was Tamil Thalaivas’ first win of Season 8 of PKL.
Ajinkya Pawar was a treat to fans — he had every trick in the book to negate all attempts from the Puneri Paltan defence. He was a livewire as he plotted his game beautifully. He chalked out his escape routes well, had enough firepower in him to escape the defenders’ clutches, and slowly became Tamil Thalaiv’s’ do-or-die raid specialist.
Tamil Thalaivas started well and eased themselves to a 2-0 lead as Sahil Singh tackled Rahul Chaudhari with a scintillating double ankle hold.
The Tamil Nadu team increased their lead gradually with Manjeet picking up bonus points in his raids and Surjeet Singh executing formidable blocks. Manjeet was in red-hot form and was unstoppable in the initial raids. He went for a raid, took three Puneri Paltan defenders in his wake, and put Tamil Thalaivas in a position of strength at 9-2.
Going by how the Tamil Thalaivas were dominating the game, an all-out was on the cards and the Paltan suffered their first all-out early into the game, conceding a 9-point lead at 3-12.
A change of tactics from Puneri Paltan, relying on their defensive strength did wonders for them as they gradually grew into the game.
Pune defenders Abinesh Nadarajan and Vishal Bharadwaj upped their game as the Tamil Thalaivas seemed to lose the plot, unable to free themselves from th’ defenders’ clutches.
A drop in intensity from Tamil Thalaivas’ Manjeet was what Pune were looking for and the raider had no answers to a strong Puneri defence. Puneri Paltan reduced the arrears quickly and were only trailing by seven points at 11-18 when the referee blew the whistle for half-time.
Puneri Paltan came stronger after the break while it was an all-familiar story for Tamil Thalaivas as they squandered a healthy lead. Puneri Paltan called the shots after an initial lull as Pankaj Mohite produced a sudden burst of speed and reduced Pune’s deficit to just one point.
Ajinkya Pawar survived a do-or-die raid for Tamil Thalaivas as he thwarted an ankle hold attempt by Sombir to help his team keep a slender lead. He was soon in action again as he dodged Vishal’s block and Rahul Chaudhari’s ankle hold to extend Thalaivas’ lead to six points.
Pawar lifted his game to a different level delivering for his team with agile raids. He brought up his first Super 10 of his Pro Kabaddi League career as he put the match to bed helping Tamil Thalaivas surge to an unassailable 10-point lead with just minutes left on the clock.