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World Series Hockey – Mixed fortunes for Punjab teams

Pakistani drag flicker Syed Imran Warsi powered Chennai Cheetahs back into contention with a hat-trick as they mauled Chandigarh Comets 5-3 in a second round match of the Bridgestone World Series Hockey match in the Punjab capital tonight.

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In an earlier encounter, Sher-E-Punjab hit Karnataka Lions for a six at the Surjeet Singh Stadium in Jalandhar to make it a contrasting night out for the teams from the northern hockey powerhouse.

With the Indian stars keeping away from the show for already well publicized reasons, the tournament could become a showcase for the jugglers from the other side of the border. Warsi was simply unstoppable as he sowed panic in the Chandigarh defence with his deadly prowess from the set pieces by netting goals in the 5th, 24th and 40th minutes. He ended the day with five goals in the championships. Ex-Olympian Adam Sinclair contributed a field goal in the 10th minute for the Cheetahs after tapping in a pass from Mark Harris who dribbled past a couple of defenders and laid the ball for him on a platter. The enterprising Aussie also got himself on the score sheet in the 66th minute following a free run with only the goalkeeper to beat. But he could have added a couple more in the first half – fortunately for the hosts, he muffed his lines.

Harendra Singh’s side reduced the margin through field goals from Ramandeep Singh (28th), skipper Rehan Butt (37th) and Canadian international Sukhwinder ‘Gabbar’ Singh’s penalty corner strike in the 64th minute.

Both teams had lost their opening ties but only Jose Brasa’s outfit managed to reverse the script today.

The free flowing game was a well-contested affair with the visiting side led by 2004 Olympic gold medallist Brent Livermore having the better of the exchanges. Midfielder Vikram Pillay was the fulcrum of many an attacking move by the Tamil outfit. The Comets could have run the southern outfit a lot more closer had Mohammed Amir Khan connected in front of an open goal following a cross from the right just before the end of the first half.

Earlier, Sher-E-Punjab roared to their second consecutive victory by devouring Karnataka Lions 6-1 at the Surjeet Singh Hockey Stadium in Jalandhar. There was no southern comfort for the side fromIndia’s Silicon city who crashed to their second successive away defeat.

The subdued Jude Felix-coached side took a shock lead against the run of play through a Vinayak Bijwad strike in the 16th minute via a swift counter attack. It however only succeeded in igniting the predatory instincts of Rajinder Singh’s wards who retaliated with quick goals from Mandip Antil (25th), Pakistani Tariq Aziz (30th minute, penalty stroke) and Gagan Ajit Singh (32nd). After half-time, Harpal Singh (44th), Harpreet Singh (63rd), with penalty corner conversions in contrasting styles, and skipper Prabhjot Singh (65th) completed the rout.

The Lions had a fare bit of possession and penetration, but their shooters were not incisive enough to test Dinesh Ekka under the Punjab bar. Their defence also was disjointed, giving the roving home forwards enough space to run amok. India veterans Prabhjot,  Deepak Thakur and Gagan Ajit thus had a field day running riot all across the park.

In the last match of the night at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi, Gurpreet Singh scored a brace from a penalty corner and the spot, to help Pune Strykers stun Delhi Wizards 3-1 and coast to their second away win. Argentine sharpshooter Mario Almada gave the Deccan side the lead in the 4th minute but German forward Philip Sunkel restored parity in the second quarter. The Namdhari drag flicker, who netted four in their first match against Mumbai Mariners, is now the highest scorer in the championship with six goals.

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