Sportstar's Classics: From Lin Dan's Olympic gold to India eves' narrow World Cup loss

During COVID-19 lockdown, where there’s a lack of active sport, revisiting some of the all-time classics might quench one’s thirst for live-action.

England's World Cup win, Andy Murray's first Slam, Lin Dan's golden moment, Patna Pirates' first triumph and Mendoza's best season.   -  GETTY IMAGES

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought all sporting events across the world to a standstill. With the COVID-19 cases multiplying everyday, a nation-wide lockdown has been imposed by the government to contain the spread of virus. 

During this troubled period, where there’s a lack of active sport, revisiting some of the all-time classics might quench one’s thirst for live-action.

- Lin Conquers Lee Once Again -

[2012 Olympics men’s singles Badminton Final: Lin Dan beats Lee Chong Wei 15-21, 21-10, 21-19 (August 5)]

This has to be one of the greatest rivalries in the history of Badminton. The same two shuttlers had contested the 2008 Beijing Olympics final. Top seed Lin Dan had it easy against Lee Chong Wei in a 21-12, 21-8 victory back then.

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However, in 2012, Lee was World No. 1 by a huge margin and he took that confidence into the summit clash at the Wembley Arena and sealed the first game 21-15 against his arch-rival and good friend Lin. The Chinese southpaw, being a game down, shifted gears and quickly claimed the second 21-10. 

It is worth noting that both the competitors had hardly broken a sweat all tournament. So the third game was a high-pressure situation for both for the first time. They played some long rallies, one of which involved 46 strokes, and kept the spectators on the edge of their seats.

Lin Dan proudly exhibits his Gold medal after winning the 2012 Olympics men’s singles.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

The drama continued till the very end. With scores reading 19-20 against Lee, the Malaysian hit one long to gift his adversary the title. Lin immediately threw his racquet in the air, ran towards the crowd and let out a loud cry. Lee, on the other hand, fell to the ground in dejection as he faltered at the last stage one more time and added another silver to his cabinet.

Lin became the first men’s singles Badminton player to retain an Olympic gold after winning the 79-minute encounter. The world had witnessed a spectacle that day.    

- Fifth Time Lucky for Sir Andy Murray - 

[2012 US Open men’s singles Final: Andy Murray beats Novak Djokovic 7-6, 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 (September 11)]

Andy Murray had lost four other Grand Slam finals before reaching the 2012 US Open final. Meanwhile, his opponent on the night, Djokovic had five Slams to his name.

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Third seed Murray had begun the final at the Flushing Meadows in an aggressive manner, winning four straight points to break second seed Djokovic’s serve straightaway. The Serb broke back immediately to tie the score 1-1. The players traded one more break as the first set reached the tie-breaker. Murray held his nerve to win it 12-10, claiming the set 7-6.

The second set was once again a roller-coaster ride. After being broken twice and trailing 0-4, Djokovic fought back to make it 5-5. However, Murray’s superior first-serve helped him break his opponent one more time to snatch the second 7-5.

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic pose with their winners' and runners-up trophies.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Some people consider Djoker the fittest sportsperson on the planet and he justified that tag by getting the better of his rival with some unbelievable movement on the court and clever winners. He levelled the match by taking the third and fourth sets 6-2, 6-3 respectively with relative ease.

It looked as though Murray might have lost the plot once again but he upped the ante in the decider to send Djokovic to the limits. He returned with the utmost precision and bagged the set 6-2, finally winning his first Slam in the process. Murray also became the first British man since Fred Perry, who last won the US Open in 1936, to win a major.  

The final which lasted for four hours and 54 minutes is the third-longest men's title decider in the Open era. 

- Mendoza Takes Chennaiyin FC to Glory -

[ISL Final 2015: Chennaiyin FC 3 – 2 FC Goa (December 20)]

The stage was set for a goal-fest as two free-scoring sides and losing semifinalists from the previous year met in the 2015 ISL Final in Goa. The night was even more special as two legends of the game, Italy’s Marco Materazzi and Brazil’s Zico were managing Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa respectively in the summit clash.

The first half of the match at Fatorda Stadium didn’t produce any goals but fans got a hint of what to expect in the next 45 minutes.

The second-half saw 23-year-old Stiven Mendoza draw a foul inside the penalty box as Chennai won a spot-kick, which Bruno Pelissari stepped up to take. The Brazilian’s penalty at the 54th minute was saved by keeper Laxmikant Kattimani, however, Pelissari found the back of the net on the rebound.

Marco Materazzi and Elano's (R) Chennaiyin FC beat Zico and Lucio's (L) FC Goa 3-2 in the 2015 ISL Final.   -  ISL

 

Four minutes later, super-sub Thongkhosiem Haokip equalized for Goa against the run of play. Jofre Gonzalez, who had won the league with ATK in 2014, scored one more as his club took the lead in the 87th minute. The phrase ‘celebrating too soon’ would be apt for the Spaniard, who sparked off celebrations by removing his shirt, after slotting home Goa’s second, thinking he had taken his team to glory. The crowd too danced to his tune.

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But unfortunately for them, Mendoza and his teammates had other ideas. A Kattimani own goal in the final minute of regulation time and a stoppage-time act of brilliance from Chennai's Colombian striker sealed the deal for the Marina Machans as the Gaurs let go of a glorious opportunity. 

At the end of the day, ISL's second champion had recovered from being 1-2 down in the 90th minute to script one of the greatest comeback stories in the history of Indian football.

- The Pirates Party Begins -

[PKL Season 3 (2016) Final: Patna Pirates 31 – 28 U Mumba (March 5)]

The Patna Pirates is the most successful franchise in Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), winning three consecutive titles from season three to five. Its first triumph at Indira Gandhi Stadium, New Delhi, in 2016 was built on the back of an experienced defence and a relatively young raiding department.

Pardeep Narwal, the raider with the most points in the league’s history, was out injured early on in the final against defending champion U Mumba. Back then, one would have thought that the Pirates were on the back foot right away but that is when Rohit Kumar stepped up.

The tall and agile raider was a nightmare for the Mumbai defenders. Eventually, Patna inflicted an all-out on the opposition within the first seven minutes, thanks to Rohit’s quick and effective raids. Sandeep Narwal’s ankle holds also troubled the Mumbai raiders and by the end of the first 20 minutes, the 2015-winner slumped even further at 11-19.

Patna Pirates celebrate after winning the PKL Season 3.   -  PKL

 

U Mumba skipper Anup Kumar, who had a forgettable first half filled with empty and unsuccessful raids, rose to the occasion in the second. On the other hand, Mohit Chhillar led the defensive duties during his side’s comeback trail with a High-5. Patna was all-out in the 29th minute of the match and its lead was reduced to just four.

A neck-to-neck battle ensued in the last 10 minutes, with the score tied 28-28 at a point. However, the Pirates performed better under pressure with two successful raids by Sandeep and Deepak Narwal on either side of an Anup mistake to claim the PKL trophy. 

- So close yet so far for India -

[2017 ICC Women’s World Cup Final: England beats India by nine runs (July 23)]

England hosted the Women’s World Cup in 2017. In this edition, the home side topped the league stage and edged past South Africa in the semifinals. It faced India, the side which inflicted its only defeat in the tournament, in the final. The Indians, on the other hand, got the better of defending champion Australia in their last-four fixture. 

England won the toss and elected to bat in the summit clash. It started proceedings with a slow and cautious approach at the Lord’s Cricket Ground, London. Sarah Taylor and Natalie Sciver put together a partnership of 83 runs for the fourth wicket to take their team to 146 for three in the 33rd over.

A jubilant England women's team celebrates after winning the Women's World Cup.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

From there, England lost three wickets for just 18 runs, with Jhulan Goswami causing all the damage. Some rearguard action from the lower middle-order batters and tail-enders took the host to 228.

India’s chase began disastrously with Smriti Mandhana getting out for a duck in the second over. Captain Mithali Raj was then dismissed for 17 as India was reduced to 43 for two. Opener Punam Raut’s 86 and Harmanpreet Kaur’s 51 took the visitor closer to the target. It needed 38 runs from 44 balls, with seven wickets in hand, to be crowned World Champion.

One would have backed India to win it from here but that is when there was a change in the script. New-ball bowler Anya Shrubsole entered the fray once again. She wreaked havoc as the Indian batswomen fell one after the other like a pack of cards. Shrubsole ended the match with six wickets as India was all-out for 219, falling short of the target by nine runs.

England won the Women's World Cup for a fourth time, the third one at home. Skipper Heather Knight lifted the trophy and sent the fans at Lord’s into a frenzy. 

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