PKL 9 Playoffs: Sahul Kumar's monster performance and Mohammad Nabibakhsh's renaissance decide semifinals

Sahul Kumar and Bharat engage in battle in their PKL 9 semifinal. PKL

Jaipur Pink Panthers will play Puneri Paltan in the final of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) Season 9, after contrasting wins in the semifinals. Jaipur breezed past the Bengaluru Bulls 49-29, in a display of sensational defensive superiority, while Puneri Paltan, despite trailing for large periods of the match, produced a stunning comeback to end the Tamil Thalaivas' fairytale run with a 39-37 win.

The Pink Panthers will be looking for their first title since the inaugural PKL season, which will also see them join Patna Pirates as the only multiple winners of the competition. Pune, on the other hand, will be playing in their first-ever PKL final.

Sahul Kumar unleashes monster performance

Jaipur Pink Panthers made their third PKL final, in their third appearance at the semifinal, as they cut short the Bulls' run with a commanding performance. .

V Ajith Kumar with 13 points overshadowed Arjun Deshwal and Rahul Chaudhari in the raiding department, but the Jaipur defence had a special night.

This was a Bengaluru Bulls raiding unit that had picked up 30 points in their eliminator against Dabang Delhi. It was never going to be easy against the best defensive unit of PKL 9, but the Bulls were reduced to half that number tonight. Throughout the season, Jaipur's defence had been led by performances from Ankush Rathee and Sunil Kumar, but tonight, Sahul Kumar owned the semifinal stage, and then some.

Bharat Hooda, the main man for the Bulls, spent more than half of the match off court, and that was down to Sahul. Bharat's raids were from the left, but from his right corner position, Sahul kept gobbling him up.

It was one of the most thrilling individual performances of the season. Ankle holds, back holds, thigh holds, it had everything in it, and then just as if he wanted to show off how good his night was, Sahul lifted Sachin Narwal on his shoulder for his ninth point of the night.

The Jaipur defensive unit was a frightening prospect for anyone this season. Now, with Sahul coming to the party along with Sunil and Ankush, how does one get the better of this monster unit?

Mohammad Nabibakhsh finally comes to the party

After the first half, which the Tamil Thalaivas finished with a six-point lead, Puneri Paltan needed a hero, especially in the absence of their two raiding stars in Aslam Inamdar and Mohit Goyat. Pankaj Mohite was one of them, with a sensational 16-point haul that kept them within touching distance of the Thalaivas for most of the game.

And then, in the clutch moments, when a star needed to emerge, it was a familiar name, as Nabibakhsh produced the kind of performance similar to the ones that won Bengal Warriors the PKL 7 title.

It has been a disappointing season for the Iranian so far, but he chose the best of days to make a telling contribution. On paper, his 6 points (4 raid points and 2 tackle points) doesn't feel like a big contribution, but the times he produced those points in, particularly the two tackles on Ajinkya Pawar, tilted the scales in Puneri Paltan's favour.

They inflicted a late all-out on the Thalaivas, which gave them a five-point lead with three minutes to go, and then they managed the game expertly to send them into the summit clash for the first time ever.

Nabibakhsh, Pankaj, and captain Fazel Atrachali will now know that a herculean task faces them in the final, where they will go up against a well-oiled Pink Panthers unit. But these two Iranians are battle-hardened veterans with experience of winning on the big occasion, so don't bet against them, even if they do begin the match as underdogs.