PBL 2020: Bengaluru Raptors remain in semifinal contention as Sai Praneeth wins thriller

World Championships bronze medallist Sai Praneeth of Bengaluru Raptors held his nerves to beat Mumbai Rockets’ Parupalli Kashyap to help the defending champions remain in contention for the semi-finals at the Premier Badminton League here on Tuesday.

In a thrilling match that saw two of India’s best men’s singles shuttlers locking horns, Sai Praneeth edged the 2014 Commonwealth Games champion 15-14, 14-15, 15-14.

Kashyap came out firing right from the first point. Raining his smashes down relentlessly, the world No. 25 had Sai Praneeth on the ropes initially as he surged to 8-2 lead.

It was only after the break in the first game that Sai Praneeth was able to find his aggression as he closed the gap to 9-11 in a remarkable turnaround.

Sai Praneeth used body smashes to tie the score at 14-14 before the game point was decided on a challenge and it went in favour of the Bengaluru player.

High on confidence after making a strong comeback in the first game, Sai Praneeth kept his momentum going to race away to 4-1 in the second game before soaring to 8-5.

Kashyap smartly mixed it up after that to put the world No. 11 Sai Praneeth out of his comfort zone. His efforts were soon rewarded as the two were level on 10-10 and then 13-13. Sai Praneeth used his down-the-line smash to save a game point but soon saw Kashyap summoning his own attacking game to take the match to a decider.

The match reached its climax in the decider with both showing exceptional defence. With both refusing to break down, the exciting match reached a 7-7 tie.

In a heart-stopping finish to the match that had the crowd on the edge, the two remained on level terms till 14-14. An exhausted Sai Praneeth pushed the shuttle to the backcourt on match point to seal one of the most dramatic matches this season.

In a clash of youth and experience in women’s singles, Mumbai’s Shriyanshi Pardeshi began well against world No. 2 Tai Tzu Ying to have a slender lead of 4-3 before the Raptors ace stormed back to inch ahead 8-6.

Having wrested the momentum, Tai Tzu did not waste any time to pocket the opener 15-8.

Tai Tzu opened up a 4-0 lead in the second game and raced away to 8-3 lead. Pardeshi, however, showed excellent retrieving skills to engage Tai Tzu to a 28-shot rally and get to within two points of the former world No. 1 at 7-9.

A couple of errors from Tai Tzu allowed her young opponent to remain on her heels at 11-12. But the Chinese Taipei ace was soon able to regroup and steer her way to a 15-8, 15-12 win to remain unbeaten this season.

Earlier, Mumbai Rockets began the tie with a fantastic performance in men’s doubles. Kim Gi Jung and Kim Sa Rang combined to take a 13-15, 15-8, 15-10 win against Bengaluru’s Arun George and Rian Agung Saputro.

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