Odisha Juggernauts officially became the third entrant of the Ultimate Kho Kho Season 2 Playoffs, courtesy of a narrow 30-27 victory over Gujarat Giants at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Cuttack on Saturday.
The win meant the defending champions remained fourth, and their title defence continues, while the Giants - who have already earned the qualification ticket - remain second.
Gujarat Giants won the toss and chose to defend first. It proved to be a blessing in disguise, initially, as their batch 1 - Suyash Gargate, Faizankha Pathan and Abhijit Patil and batch two - K Ram Mohan, V Subramani and Rajvardhan Patil managed to score Dream Runs to ensure they left an impression in a Turn 1 that ended with a score of 14-2 in favour of Odisha Juggernauts.
In Turn 2, the tables turned. The Juggernauts' first batch of Gowtham MK, Vishal and Dilip Khandavi managed to stay on the pitch for five minutes and 13 seconds, scoring a whopping five dream run points with Khandavi doing the majority of the running with an active time of two minutes and 34 seconds. The closing stages saw Manoj Patil remain unconquered by the Gujarat Giants' attackers as he helped pivot Odisha Juggernauts to a 19-14 lead at the end of the first innings.
Gujarat Giants tried to force a comeback in Turn 3, courtesy of their first batch of Akshay Bhangare, Deepak Madhav and Shubham Thorat scoring two Dream Runs. Their second batch kept up the momentum as both Suyash Gargate and Abhijit Patil - via a Dream Run and a couple of eye-catching dodges - put the pressure on the hosts in this Turn.
Having to defend a ten-point lead, the Odisha Juggernauts had to throw all the tools and the strategies into getting a win on the board. It started with their first batch of Dipesh More, Nikhil B and Omkar Sonawane scoring a Dream Run that left Gujarat Giants with five points to get in, with a little over three minutes left on the timer. All-rounder Rohan Shingade though had other ideas, as he stitched two vital Dream Runs in the dying minutes to see off a comfortable 30-27 win.
What's next for these teams? Odisha Juggernauts take on Telugu Yoddhas, while the Gujarat Giants have a day's rest to recover and then face the Yoddhas.
Attacker of the Match: Manoj Patil (Odisha Juggernauts)
Defender of the Match: Dilip Khandavi (Odisha Juggernauts)
Ultimate Kho of the Match: Suyash Gargate (Gujarat Giants)