The 5th edition of the Premier Badminton League (PBL 2020) got off to a great start in Chennai where the entertainment, action and standard of play were off the charts, and in comparison, the action that badminton fans witnessed during the Lucknow leg was no less.
In the Lucknow leg, we saw young talent take on experienced names as youngsters such as Rituparna Das, Chirag Shetty helped lead their side to victory. In the men's doubles category, Chirag Shetty paired up with the sensational Hendra Setiawan to crush their opponents by displaying first-class badminton, as their chemistry on the court made them a delight to watch.
The Awadhe Warriors put up a great show but were outplayed by the Hyderabad Hunters as big names such as PV Sindhu, Sourabh Verma and the mixed doubles combination of Sikki Reddy/Vladimir Ivanov were determined to lead their team to victory.
The tie between the Bengaluru Raptors and Pune 7 Aces was an absolute crowd-pleaser. In what proved to be a thrilling encounter, the Adocks drove home a victory for the Pune 7 Aces by sealing the deal in their three-setter against Eom Hye Won and Peng Soon Chan.
The last tie as part of the Lucknow leg was played between Awadhe Warriors and the Mumbai Rockets. The Warriors dominated the Mumbai Rockets as the former did not lose a single match and emerged victorious by a 5-0 margin.
With the Lucknow leg having produced some thrilling action, here are the three matches that were the most exciting of the lot.
#1 Chris and Gabby Adcock (Pune 7 Aces) Vs Chan Peng Soon and Eom Hye Won (Bengaluru Raptors)
With the Pune 7 Aces and Bengaluru Raptors tied 3-3 in the game, the result of the match came down to the mixed doubles encounter where the Adcocks were due to take on the pair of Chan Peng Soon / Eom Hye Won.
The Adcocks did their team proud as they won the match after three long games by a 10-15, 15-11, 15-12 margin.
Even though they lost the first game, the Adcocks were determined to power through. In the first game, the Adcocks made quite a few unforced errors, with Gabrielle Adcock (Gabby) in particular making quite a few errors at the net that cost them important points. At one stage, the Raptors enjoyed a 1-5 lead and converted that advantage to win the first set 15-10.
In the second set, the Pune 7 Aces took the lead at 3-0. As the game progressed, the husband-wife duo started to go in with a cautious approach and with a 10-6 lead, the confidence was sky-high for the Adcocks as they clinched the second set 15-11.
The third and final game was crucial, not only for a win in the match but to notch up a win from the entire tie. Both teams were under some sort of pressure. The Bengaluru Raptors took the initial lead at 3-1, but the Adcocks weren't ready to throw in the towel.
They caught up and soon, levelled the score at 11-11. With quality shots and a good mix of patience and aggression, the Adcocks raced away with the lead and soon sealed a captivating 15-12 win.
#2 Tai Tzu Ying (Bengaluru Raptors) Vs Rituparna Das (Pune 7 Aces)
In the tie between the Pune Aces and Bengaluru Raptors, the Aces took a lead courtesy of Sakai, before Sai Praneeth equalled scores with a 2-1 win over KY Loh. Next up, Tai Tzu Ying from the Bengaluru Raptors was up against the young India shuttler, Rituparna Das from the Pune 7 Aces.
Given that this was a trump match, it was crucial for both of these shuttlers to pick up a win for their side. Young Das began shakily as Tai raced off to a 6-0 lead courtesy of some long shots from Das which landed out of the court.
With Tai leading 10-1, the Taiwanese was the favourite to clinch a win. That's exactly what transpired as young Rituparna was forced to make some unforced errors and lost the opening set 3-15.
The second game was better for the Pune 7 Aces, but Das was still not good enough to pick up a win. Yet, notably, Das took the lead at 6-1 and put the Taiwanese under pressure. However, this lead was short-lived. The highly experienced Tai Tzu Ying caught up in no time, levelling scores at 9-9, highlighting why she is ranked highly in the circuit.
From then on, Das was absolutely outplayed as the Taiwanese shuttler did not allow the youngster to take a single point, pocketing the next six points to seal a 15-9 win.
#3 Ko Sung Hyun and Shin Baek Cheol (Awadhe Warriors) vs Kim Gi Jung and Kim Sa Rang (Mumbai Rockets)
The Awadhe Warriors and Mumbai Rockets clashed in the final match of the Lucknow leg, in a set of encounters that saw the former dominate over their opponents in all the divisions.
With a 4-0 lead heading into the men's doubles encounter between Ko Sung Hyun and Shin Baek Cheol (Awadhe Warriors) and Kim Gi Jung and Ki Sa Rang( Mumbai Rockets), the Rockets' duo had the onus of picking up a solitary win for their side.
The Mumbai Rocket fans were handed a slight hope as despite trailing 5-10 in the first set, Jung / Rang managed to pull through and clinched a thrilling 15-14 win from the opening set and take an early advantage.
But from there it was all downhill for the Mumbai Rockets as they lost the second set, and it seemed like the pressure had gotten to them in the second set as they made quite a few unforced errors.
And, in the third set, the Awadhe Warriors were up 6-2. Suddenly, the Mumbai Rockets caught up and the two teams were tied at 8-8. This gave both the teams a fighting chance, with both the sides capable of picking up a win.
The match was then stretched till the last point, with the game in the balance at 14-14. With the crowd in attendance at the edge of their seat, the Warriors' duo picked up the final point and with that, sealed an outright 5-0 win.