The Patna Pirates defeated newcomers Gujarat Fortunegiants 55-38 on Saturday to win a third consecutive Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) title.
From big gambles to last-gasp wins, record raids and innovative moves, the 13-week-long fifth season of PKL saw it all and more. Here is a look at some of the moments that made us stand up and applaud.
Thakur's last-moment takedown of the two table-toppers
Captain Ajay Thakur led from the front as his Tamil Thalaivas side, sitting at the bottom of the table, won big against the eventual table-toppers from both zones - Bengal Warriors and Gujarat Fortunegiants - in the same week of the group stage. Both matches were won in similar fashion, with Thakur overturning both teams' leads in the last minute to take his side to victory. The final scorecard was evidence of how tight both matches were: Tamil won 33-32 against Bengal and 35-34 against Gujarat.
Surjeet's gutsy gamble
In what was one of the most interesting games in the league, Bengal - competing against mighty Patna - were in a tricky situation: With four minutes to go, Bengal trailed 27-35 as a time-out was taken. In the next two minutes, the unthinkable happened: captain Surjeet Singh sent the dangerous Pardeep to the bench, raider Deepak Narwal then eliminated the two-man opposition to inflict an all-out, eventually holding Patna to a miraculous tie.
Sandeep's bold block
Puneri Paltan and UP Yoddha were in a dogfight in Eliminator 1 with neither team getting away from the other till the last minute, with Pune leading by one point. Although Sandeep Narwal didn't have his best season this year, he wasn't shy of getting involved in the clutch moments of big games. With his team in a must-win situation, Sandeep knocked UP out of the tournament after affecting a brave tackle on Mahesh Goud, whose raid proved to be the last of the match.
The bizarre back-hop
After popularising the dubki (dive), this season Pardeep Narwal invented the 'back-hop', in which raiders, whose feet are locked by the defenders of the opposing team, hop backwards to the mid-line. What was interesting about this move was that it was born when Pardeep - the highest scorer in the tournament with 369 points - couldn't find another way to score for his team in one of their earliest matches against Bengal Warriors. Several raiders adopted it thereafter - and succeeded eventually - including the the promising Shrikant Jadhav (U Mumba) and the experienced Deepak Narwal (Bengal Warriors).
The epic eight-pointer
In what could easily qualify as one of the greatest raids in PKL's history, Pardeep inflicted an all-out on a six-man Haryana Steelers defence in Eliminator 2, scoring eight points from a single raid. Pardeep began by bending low and jumping away at the last second to evade two defenders, getting a touch on both; he then escaped a hip hold and an ankle hold before rolling away from another charging defender and, finally, escaping between Prashant Kumar Rai's legs to return to the safety of the mid-line. Pardeep had gotten a touch on all six defenders in the process and scored two bonus points as well from his massive raid. Yet, it all happened so quickly that it's only possible to process and appreciate what he managed to do by watching slow-motion replays.
After the dubki and the back-hop, the between-the-legs escape might well be the latest move in Pardeep's seemingly-endless repertoire. This match also saw him surpass 300 raid points in the season - a record number in a single season.