Indian Sports highlights, November 25: Satwik-Chirag into China Masters final, Blasters top ISL table with win

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty. Wu Zhigang/VCG via Getty Images

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Here were all the key updates from November 25, Saturday:

Kerala Blasters go top of ISL table with 1-0 win over Hyderabad FC

The Blasters and Hyderabad each had opportunities to score in the first half, both from set-pieces, as Jonathan Moya and Milos Drincic missed gilt-edged chances with headers. However, the latter made up for his miss in the 41st minute, tapping home from close range after a low cross from Adrian Luna on the right, put through by Mohammed Aimen. The Blasters went into the break with a 1-0 lead.

Drincic nearly doubled his tally early in the second half with a header from a corner, but Gurmeet Singh made an excellent save in goal. Hyderabad had little to offer going forward as the Blasters held them at bay with ease as the half progressed, eventually seeing out six minutes of injury-time to triumph 1-0 and go top of the ISL table with three wins in a row (although Mohun Bagan and FC Goa have a couple of games in hand).

Chennaiyin and East Bengal play out predictable draw

Neither team will be happy with the result, but both managers will seek solace in the basic fact that a draw's always better than a loss. Chennaiyin did all of the early running (including Jordan Murray missing from five yards out), but East Bengal took the lead after a PV Vishnu cross was turned into his own net by Ayush Adhikari. Chennaiyin continued to dominate proceedings but some superb last ditch defending and even more lackadaisical finishing combined to keep them out... till Ninthoi Meetei equalised with a nifty finish after a giveaway by Pardo in the East Bengal defence. The end was dramatic as well, with Ryan Edwards getting sent off for a second yellow in the 96th minute.

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty into final of China Masters Super 750

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty bounced back from their first-round exit at the Japan Masters last week by defeating the champions of that tournament, He Je Ting and Ren Xiang Yu, in the semifinal of the China Masters by a 21-15, 22-20 scoreline in 50 minutes - thus booking their spot in the final tomorrow.

Facing up to a partisan crowd that cheered every one of He-Ren's attempted smashes Satwik-Chirag began fairly well, retrieving well in the long rallies, and responding with diagonal smashes of their own to lead 6-2. The fast exchanges as the game went on favoured the Indians with Chirag particularly lethal at the net. The Indian duo took a 10-4 lead, but a challenge that had the crowd chanting "IN! IN! IN" saw their prayers answered as He-Ren drew it back to 6-10, only for Satwik-Chirag to swiftly force an error and lead 11-6 at the change of ends.

As He-Ren returned with renewed vigour, the in-form Chinese duo quickly clawed back the lead to 10-12, before Satwik-Chirag rattled in four unstoppable smashes to make it 16-10. The Indian duo had quickly worked out how best to move He-Ren before forcing a disadvantageous lift followed by a super smash from either Satwik or Chirag. The pair were also stellar in their defence, which forced errors from He-Ren that saw them trail 10-18. Satwik's reach was proving troublesome for his Chinese opponents, who were unable to force an error out of him. Eventually, after a few errors, Satwik-Chirag took the first game 21-15 in 20 minutes.

A smash right into Satwik's body forced an error to open the second game, and the Indian pair conceded a couple of soft errors to trail 3-4. The second game was much more of a contest and Satwik-Chirag and He-Ren were level at 6-6 with aggressive badminton from both the pairs. The Indian duo received some advice to vary their pace from the coaches on the sidelines, but it seemed to have little effect as He-Ren won the next three points to take a 10-6 lead as the errors flowed. A superb leave from Satwik after a long rally saw them claw it back to 8-10, only for He-Ren to rain in the smashes in the next rally and lead 11-8 going into the interval.

Chirag's aggression at the net after Satwik's great defence saw them take the next point, but He-Ren took advantage of some miscommunication from their opponents to restore their three point lead. Yet, Satwik-Chirag worked their angles well and varied their aggression to draw level at 13-13, 14-14 and 15-15 again as the two pairs remained locked in a tight battle. A couple of errant strokes from Ren saw the Chinese pair trail 15-17 but Satwik returned the favour by finding the net from close range, only for He to screw one wide and restore the Indian duo's two-point lead.

A stunning rally that saw both Satwik-Chirag and He-Ren employ every shot in their attacking arsenal only to see it thwarted by superb defence from the opposing end ended with the Chinese pair leaving a floater from Satwik to the back court but losing the point as it caught the line. A couple of errors saw He-Ren claw it back to 19-19 as the decibel levels rose. A superb smash from Chirag silenced the crowd, only for He-Ren to respond with one of their own and raise the roof. Ren's error at the net, followed by Satwik-Chirag finally converting their match point with a thunderous smash from Satwik. The fist-pumps and celebrations followed as the Indian pair celebrated reaching their sixth final of 2023 - where they face one of second seeds Liang Wei Keng - Wang Chang or Chen Bo Yang - Liu Yi.

Pankaj Advani completes grand double in Billiards Worlds for world title No 27

Pankaj Advani won a staggering 27th World title as he completed his fifth grand double with a dominating 5-0 win over compatriot Sourav Kothari in the final of the IBSF World Billiards Championship (point-format) in Doha on Friday.

The 38-year-old, who had defeated Kothari recently in the longer format of 1000-point, won the earlier editions in 2005, 2008, 2014, and 2018. This is in addition to the snooker double he won in 2015. The short format was a best-of-9 contest of 150-point frames.

Advani will now head back home for 10 days before travelling to Chennai for the National Billiards and Snooker Championship.

What happened yesterday?

  • Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty were the only Indians left at the China Masters after defeating Leo Rolly Carnando and Daneil Marthin 21-16, 21-14 in their quarterfinal.

  • HS Prannoy lost in straight games to the in-form Kodai Naraoka in his quarterfinal.

  • The ISSF World Cup in Doha, Qatar saw Anish Bhanwala bag bronze in the men's 25m rapid fire piston event, while Akhil Sheoran finished fifth in the final of the 50m 3 Positions rifle event

You can check all the details of Friday's news events here.