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World Series Hockey -- Wizards clout Strykers for a sixer!

687   //    26 Mar 2012, 22:59 IST

Delhi Wizards belatedly rediscovered their magic and hit Pune Strykers for a six, winning  6-2 in a 12th round match of the Bridgestone World Series Hockey at the PCMC Stadium in the western metropolis tonight.

The hosts went into a third minute lead but the Wizards, who came into today’s match with the best defensive record in the tournament, shone in attack today and wrapped up the match in the second quarter itself by waltzing to a winning 4-1 lead.

Vikramjeet fired in a brace of penalty corners and man of the match, forward Victo Singh, a brace of field goals while Upendra Pillay and inspirational skipper Salim Abassi also got onto the Wizards’ score sheet. Mario Almada and Vikas Pillay (penalty stroke) reduced the margin for the Deccan side.

The must win encounter between the teams of two former Olympians-turned-coaches saw 1992 participant Darryl D’Souza’s outfit take full points and swell their tally to 16, giving themselves an outside chance of making the last four. On the other hand, 1988 Olympian Gundeep Kumar’s franchise slipped to seventh position with 15 points after their fifth defeat and now look like they may have lost the plot.

Mario Almada, a FIH Top 5 player in the world on three occasions in the past, gave the hosts a flying start in the 3rd minute with his opportunism, reverse slotting a loose ball into the Delhi cage.

However, the Wizards hit back in the 14th minute through Pillay’s courageous diving equalizer after Abassi had taken it upon himself to do the damage by plucking the ball off his own attacker and having a shy at the Pune citadel. The Pakistani then got into the act in the 21st minute by brilliantly deflecting Philip Sunkel’s tomahawked cross from the right into the Pune net. Vikramjeet made it 3-1 with a deadly drag flick that crashed into the roof of the cage. Victo Singh then hammered another nail into the Pune coffin in the 32nd minute when he smashed in an aerial ball which had ballooned off Guri’s pads after the custodian had padded away the German forward’s stiff reverse shot.

Pune started with a flourish, as they usually do, and snatched an early lead. But they only flattered to deceive as the Wizards, again led from the front by Abassi with his exemplary work rate and elegant stickwork, took the battle to the rival camp. Despite Rajpal Singh being suspended today for his misconduct in their last match – he was however in his element, shouting instructions from the stands – the Wizards overran the Pune defence with their enterprise and aggressiveness.

Pune of course tried hard to come back in the last two quarters and forced a number of penalty corners but Gurpreet Singh, who had shown early promise as a drag flicker, fired only blanks today. Kamaldeep Singh, in the running for the best goalkeeper award, also did his bit to keep the Strykers from sneaking back into the game.

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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