A fighting India scored a last minute goal to stun world number one side Australia 4-3 in the third hockey Test and notch up their first win in 13 years here on Wednesday.
It was a rare win for India against Australia, who had thrashed them 7-0 in the Birmingham Commonwealth Games final earlier this year. The famous win also kept the five-match series alive with Australia leading 2-1. India had lost 4-5 and 4-7 in the first two Tests.
The fourth match will be played here on Saturday and the final one on Sunday. Skipper Harmanpreet Singh (12th minute), Abhishek (47th), Shamsher Singh (57th) and Akashdeep Singh (60th) scored for India. Australia’s goals came from the sticks of Jack Welch (25th), skipper Aran Zalewski (32nd) and Nathan Ephraums (59th).
Both the teams started on a patient note, trying to keep their defence intact while looking for counter-attacks.
Australia had the first chance in the seventh minute. It was a scramble in front of the India goal but Krishan Bahadur Pathak denied the hosts with some desperate goalkeeping. It was India who took the lead in the 12th minute from a penalty corner through skipper Harmanpreet, who went for a placement rather than brute power. He placed the ball perfectly to the right of Australia goalkeeper Johan Durst. Young Sukhjeet Singh was then denied a brilliant goal by the post after he set up the opportunity with nice 3D skills. In the 20th minute, veteran India custodian P R Sreejesh denied Australia as he was alert at the near post to keep out a reverse hit. Minutes later, Sreejesh was again at the thick of things as he made a triple save from a penalty corner before Surender Kumar kept the ball out. Australia drew level in the 25th minute when Welch scored his third goal of the series, glancing in Tim Howard’s searching ball after an alert Sreejesh thwarted Jerry Hayward’s drag-flick from a penalty corner. The home side continued to press hard after the change of ends, earning back-to-back penalty corners two minutes after the restart. The second attempt was deflected in by skipper Zalewski from Hayward’s indirect try to take the lead.
India earned an early penalty corner in the fourth and final quarter and Abhishek found the back of the Australian net, deflecting in Harmanpreet’s flick from close range.
India secured a penalty corner in the 52nd minute but failed to utilise it.
Rajkumar Pal then came close to scoring but his shot from the top of the circle went wide. India applied pressure on the Australian defence in the final quarter and managed to secure another penalty corner and Shamser was at the right place at the right time to tap in from close after Jugraj’s initial try was saved by the opposition goalkeeper. It was end-to-end stuff in the final few minutes of the game as Australia earned a penalty corner soon but Sreejesh stood like wall in front of the Indian goal. A minute from the final hooter, Australia secured two consecutive penalty corner but failed to breach the Indian defence.
But the match was far from over as 54 seconds from time, Akashdeep scored after being fed by a selfless Mandeep Singh to hand India a famous win.