ONGC Dehradun will meet host IOB in the men's final of the IOB platinum jubilee National club volleyball championship at the Montfort indoor stadium on Saturday .
But the two teams took contrasting routes to the title-round. IOB's was a straight game victory, whereas ONGC had to go through five games.
Where drabness engulfed one semifinal (IOB-Chennai Customs), the other involving ONGC and HSIIDC Haryana was a gripping affair.
No one could have predicted a winner till the last point in the latter match — there should have been a touch of displeasure for the Haryana team over a ‘foul' call by the second Referee S. Ramamurthy in the deciding fifth game.
But that incident alone conveyed the intensity of a contest where no quarter was asked for and none given.
The start was slow, but the initial action gave a taste of things to come.
For ONGC, the sight of Lalit Kumar finding his smashing range was heart-warming. He had missed a few just the other day.
His efforts, compounded by Mandeep's and Gurchand's, proved the catalyst as the Dehradun side surged ahead quickly.
But the Haryana side, another wonderful bunch mostly comprised of India players, led by that mercurial Sanjay Kumar, showed the fighting spirit.
Sanjay's effectiveness in spiking was a sort of fulcrum on which the side banked on for balance. Sube Singh and Jitender singh were two other key performers.
To the wire
The second game went to the wire, but, as it happens in such a close contest, one slip can cause a huge slide. ONGC was about to make that realisation.
ONGC regrouped to upset the Haryana team's plan in the next game, to the extent that even regular passes, blocks and smashes lost sting or direction. ONGC romped home, only to face another stumbling block.
Losing his cool
The result boiled down to the decider, when the usually unflappable Sanjay lost his cool at Ramamurthy's call.
He was convinced his feet had not crossed the centre line while executing a smash; the Referee felt otherwise and the call stood. At 8-6 in ONGC's favour, that had to be the crucial turn of an evenly fought contest.
In comparison, the IOB-Customs match was a let down. IOB hardly appeared tested as points came easily from straight forward smashes and blocks.
Both Nadarajan and Naveen Raja Jacob excelled here while Selvaprabhu, as usual, never missed an opportunity to score.
For Customs, Sivabalan appeared restrained while the other universal Christopher John looked off colour. In general, Customs looked subdued — a surprise to many.
Meanwhile, in the women's section, KSEB, by virtue of its impressive win over Dr. Sivanthi Club, opens the possibility of earning the runner up; spot pipping Central Railway.
This will become a certainty only if Southern Railway beats Central railway either 3-0 or 3-1 on Saturday in the women's last round-robin league.
Men: Semifinal: IOB bt Chennai Customs 25-20, 25-21, 25-13; ONGC bt HSIIDC 25-17, 24-26, 25-9, 18-25, 15-10.
Women: KSEB bt Dr. Sivanthi club 25-17, 25-17, 25-16; Eastern Railway bt SAI Tellicherry 14-25, 25-22, 28-26, 21-25, 15-13.
Keywords: IOB volleyball championship