Chennai Smashers 'trumps' Bengaluru Blasters, but out of PBL race

Bengaluru Blasters won three out of the five matches but lost the tie 2-3 by virtue of going down in its trump match. Bengaluru, however, climbed to the top of the table with 15 points.

P.V. Sindhu jumps for a smash during her trump match against Kirsty Gilmour.   -  B. Jothi Ramalingam

Bengaluru Blasters won three out of the five matches but lost the tie 2-3 by virtue of going down in its trump match, in a Premier Badminton League encounter at the Nehru Indoor Stadium here on Monday. While Chennai won the first two matches, including its trump match and Bengaluru’s trump, the visitor came back strong to win the next three matches.

The win sent Chennai Smashers to the third on the table, but it has completed its league engagements. A semifinal spot looks extremely bleak for the defending champion.

Chennai Smashers vs Bengaluru Blasters: As It Happened

The Chennai outfit got off to a rollicking start when Lee Yang and B. Sumeeth Reddy bounced back from a game down to beat Mathias Boe and Kim Sa Rang 8-15, 15-14, 15-13. With the defending champion not having a great season, and with Chennai playing its last game, it looked keen to sign off the leg on a high.

The home team, however, didn't have an ideal start. Bengaluru ran away with the first game as Boe hurled down extremely powerful smashes.  Sumeeth was found wanting on more than one occasion.

The break seemed to have done a world of good for the Chennai pair as they came out with renewed energy and passion. Their defence was exquisite, an example being when Lee returned four shots in succession squatting and Sumeet dived to his right for a return. The rally ended when Rang went long at the baseline. The Chennai pair forced a decider when Boe went wide.

READ: Sindhu reveals her success mantra

The third game almost mirrored the second as both the teams matched point to point. A barrage of smashes from Sumeeth gave Chennai a handy lead of 8-5 but a plethora of unforced errors allowed Bengaluru to crawl back into the game.

However, the Chennai pair kept their composure and it seemed like the pressure of a trump match got to the Bengaluru's Rang and Boe. They landed the shuttle wide a couple of times at a crucial juncture of the match to concede the defeat and lose a point.

The win sparked wild celebrations as Yang threw his racquet in the air and Sumeeth celebrated with a jig.

Chennai knew the importance of beating Bengaluru in the latter’s trump game as it was confident that talismanic shutter P.V. Sindhu would see the back off Kirsty Gilmour in Chennai’s trump game and take an unassailable lead.

It was a shaky start for Sindhu who lost five points in a row to trail 1-5. Sindhu got a break when Gilmour served wide but went into the break trailing 6-8.

Coach Ganguly Prasad and Arun Vishu then engaged in an animated discussion and Sindhu seemed to follow the instructions to the letter. Sindhu rose up to the challenge and easily wrapped up the first game 15-9.

By now Sindhu had read Gilmour’s game well and used the width of the court to mix up her shots; it all looked good for Sindhu.

She took the lead at the break, punched winners at will to move within touching distance at 13-9 but Gilmour delayed the inevitable with some good winners. She first attacked Sindhu’s body from a close range and then pushed Sindhu to the backhand corner to send down a forehand winner. The game had to decided on a golden point (with both the players tied on 14-14) and Sindhu sealed the match in Chennai’s favour when Gilmour went a tad wide on the right tramline.

World No. 1 Viktor Axelsen in action against Chennai Smashers at Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai on Monday.   -  B. Jothi Ramalingam

 

It was then left for World No. 1 Viktor Axelsen to redeem some pride for the wounded Blasters. The Dane went about in his usual business of treating his opponent, Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk, with disdain. Axelsen was harsh with his forehand and unrelenting with his drop shots. He raced to a 12-6 lead but Saensomboonsuk tried to crawl back into the game but it was little too late as Axelsen wrapped up the game in style at 15-11.

The Chennai player then bounced back in style and it looked like the sparse crowed were in for another upset and a Chennai win. Axelsen failed to clear net shot at 10-3, and later the Chennai player followed it up with a good smash down the line as Chennai wrapped up the second game 15-4.

With the back to wall and in a pressure to get off the mark, Axelsen got his best game out and kept the shuttle low and made it difficult for Saensomboonsuk. The ploy gave instant dividends as Axelsen controlled the match well with some good net play. Saensomboonsuk made a couple of unforced errors at the net as Axelsen walked away with the match at 15-9.

Subhankar Dey then staved off a stiff challenge from Brice Leverdez to win 15-12, 15-12. The Indian, on his PBL debut, pulled off a convincing win to give Blasters a crucial point, which could go a long way in cementing a playoff spot.

The final match of the day saw mixed doubles pair of Chris Adcock and Sindhu challenging Sikki Reddy and Rang.

The teams matched shot for shot and the first game went down the wire. Rang returned Chris’ serve with a smash down the line to clinch the golden point.

The absence of Gabrielle Adcock was clearly visible as Chris and Sindhu lacked the communication required. The pair was left wanting in most of the situations and both the players were stuck at one end as Sikki and Rang exploited the vacant areas to close out the tie 15-14, 15-11.

Results:

M 1: Mixed doubles: Y. Lee/B. S. Reddy (Chn) defeat M. Boe/K. S. Rang (Blr) 8-15, 15-14, 15-13.

 (Trump match for Bengaluru)

M 2: Women's singles: P. V. Sindhu defeats K. Gilmour 15-9, 15-14 (Trump match for Chennai)

M 3: Men's singles: T. Saensomboonsuk lost to V. Axelsen 11-15, 15-6, 9-15.

M 4: Men's singles: Brice Leverdez lost to Subhankar Dey 12-15, 12-15

M 5: Men's doubles: C. Adcock/P. V. Sindhu lost to N. S. Reddy/K. S. Rang 14-15, 11-15

Final score: Chennai Smashers 3 - 2 Bengaluru Blasters