Updated: November 10, 2014 3:22:03 am
Akashdeep Singh scored twice as Indian men’s hockey team stunned world champions Australia 3-1 in the fourth and final Test to register a historic 3-1 series win over the mighty Kookaburras in their home soil in Perth on Sunday. This is the first time that India have beaten Australia in a bilateral series. Prior to this series, the two countries have played five Test series in the past, with Australia winning thrice and one ending in a draw.
India had beaten Australia 1-0 on Saturday to go 2-1 up in the series and Akashdeep pumped in two field goals in the 13th and 43rd minutes for the visitors, while S K Uthappa (53rd) scored once as the visitors completed a hat-trick of wins. Australia’s lone goal was scored by Tom Craig (36th).
The Australians had fielded an experimental side in the four-match series but they still boasted of nearly a dozen players from their World Cup squad, including six players with 100 international appearances. However, their five key players – Jamie Dwyer, Mark Knowles, Joel Carroll, Kieran Govers and Matthew Butturini – are out with long-term injuries and will miss next month’s Champions Trophy as well.
With the 2016 Rio Olympics as his major target, Graham Reid, who has succeeded Ric Charlesworth, is hoping to add greater depth to the talent pool for the Kookaburras, who have already won both the World Cup and Commonwealth Games titles this year.
Even India coach Terry Walsh decided to experiment with the combinations during the tournament, giving rest to players during the course of the four-match series. Sardar, who was benched for Saturday’s game, returned to the side on Sunday to earn his 200th international cap.
India broke the deadlock in the 13 minute, with an opportunistic goal from Akashdeep who scored from a rebound after VR Raghunath’s flick from a penalty corner was saved by the Australian goalkeeper. India managed to hold on to the lead till the 35th minute before Tom Craig equalised.
The Indians started the third quarter on an aggressive note and their efforts bore fruit when they extended their lead in the 43rd minute through yet another field effort from Akashdeep, who guided home a Kothajit Singh pass. Australia tried hard but India looked the better team on display and made the scoreline 3-1 with Uthappa scoring a brilliant field goal for the Indians. The hosts pressed hard for goals in the last five minutes but Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh stood tall to deny any danger.
After losing the first game, India came back to win three games on the trot to seal one of their most memorable series wins. The visitors had been thrashed 0-4 in the first game, but they made a strong comeback to register 2-1, 1-0 and 3-1 wins respectively in their next three matches.
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