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World Series Hockey -- Badshahs dish out a royal performance

735   //    12 Mar 2012, 22:59 IST

Bhopal Badshahs dished out a royal performance at the packed Aishbagh Stadium as they downed a gallant Chennai Cheetahs 3-1 in a seventh round clash of the Bridgestone World Series Hockey in the Madhya Pradesh capital tonight.

The goal scorers for the winners were Sameer Dad, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay and Kiwi Casey Henwood with Vikram Pillay reducing the margin from a penalty stroke in the 23rd minute. But had the deadly Dad, Karan Bhaskaran and Affan Yousuf taken their chances after the change of ends, the Badshahs could have surely run out victors by a tennis scoreline. The Bhopal skipper had at least three or four good opportunities to increase his tally but failed to take advantage.

Dad opened the account in the 20th minute for the locals when he deflected in a reverse hit at the far post after Upadhyay had burst into the circle and created the opening. Pillay equalized from a penalty stroke after Peter Kelly was stick checked at the top of the D when he was about to take a shot at goal. Birthday boy and Bhopal goalkeeper Baljit Singh moved the right way but the push had too much power for him to intercept it. The Badshahs then upped the ante and goals by Upadhyay (48th) and Henwood (52nd) settled the issue decisively in favour of the home side.

With Pakistani Waseem Ahmed and Henwood turning on the magic in tandem in the midfield and head bandaged Girish Pimpale providing the steadying influence, the Badshahs set the early pace. But the Cheetahs, powered by the mercurial Pillay and skipper Brent Livermore in the engine room, soon found their feet in due course and dominated the possession statistics thereafter and forced more circle penetrations.

However, the locals, riding on a vociferous home support and enjoying the best defensive record in the tournament by virtue of having conceded the least number of goals, kept a tight ship as Ajay Kumar and Baljinder Singh came up with last minute tackles and interceptions to allow the Cheetahs the barest minimum of openings. The Badshahs also did not concede too many penalty corners and also succeeded in neutralizing the threat posed by Imran Warsi, the top scorer in the tournament, when he came up to execute the four that they gave away.

With this fourth win, the Badshahs reclaimed their throne and stormed back to the top of the table with 13 points while the Tamil outfit remain on seven points after crashing to their fourth defeat.

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Mario Rodrigues is a senior sports journalist and football & hockey writer. He is the author of the acclaimed biography of Ranjitsinhji titled ‘Batting for the Empire’.
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