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World Series Hockey -- Cheetahs eliminate the Wizards

701   //    28 Mar 2012, 23:20 IST

This was literally a do or die game for two sides, both with 16 points each and both fighting for a win to keep their hopes alive for a place in the semi-finals of the Bridgestone World Series Hockey League. And Chennai Cheetahs yanked themselves off their death bed to script a pulsating win over Delhi Wizards in a topsy turvy thriller in their penultimate encounter at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium in the southern coastal city.

The Wizards were leading 3-1 and looked like they were heading for victory but Jose Brasa’s boys turned the script around in the last quarter in remarkable fashion to emerge 6-4 victors on an incredible night.

The match was a veritable battle of the bazooka wielders as Delhi drag flicker Vikramjeet Singh fired four goals via powerful penalty corners drag flicks only for Chennai’s Imran Warsi to respond with a brace and ignite the fightback that turned the match around. Veerasamy Raja had first pulled one back for the hosts thanks to a defensive error outside the circle in the 14th minute till a double strike by the dashing Adam Sinclair (63rd and 66th minutes) and Vikram Pillay (65th minute) completed the turnaround.

Vikramjeet had got his goals in the 11th, 28th, 37th and 67th minutes that zoomed into the roof of the net like guided missiles. He also hit the crossbar in the last quarter. But nobody else put their hand up to help the Wizards past the finish line.

The Cheetahs now move into fourth spot with 19 points from their sixth win and kept themselves in contention for a spot in the semis while the Wizards bowed out with 16 points after their seventh defeat.

Both sides were evenly matched in the early phase of the game but the Wizards got a better grip on the proceedings as the match progressed by rediscovering the magic in their wands and deservingly waltzed to a 3-1 lead. Their defence, which has conceded the least number of goals till then,  also maintained a tight ship by denying the Cheetahs any penalty corners in the first half. And when the Cheetahs finally forced their initial penalty corners in the 40th and 45th minutes, custodian Kamaldeep Singh was up to the challenge by blocking out successive attempts of the deadly Warsi who now has 18 goals in the tournament.

But the Pakistani, who had a barren outing two days ago, was not to be denied for too long. And once he had ignited the fightback, there was no stopping the Cheetahs who produced their own version of southern magic and reconfirmed their superiority over the northerners whom they had beaten 5-2 earlier.

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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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