Adelaide, Dec 4: It was a fighting finish to the Australia - India Hockey Test series, with India going down 4-5 to the hosts in the fifth and final game in Adelaide on Sunday (December 4).
The five-match series, a crucial one in preparation for the upcoming FIH Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela, to be held in January, helped the Indians not only register their first victory against Australia in six years but also found themselves scoring four goals in four of the five games.
In Sunday's clash, Australia who led 3-1 at halftime got their goals through Tom Wickham (5', 17'), Aran Zalewski (30'), Jacob Andersen (40'), and Jake Whetton (54'). India's goals were scored by skipper Harmanpreet Singh (24', 60'), Amit Rohidas (34') and Sukhjeet Singh (55').
Australia took the lead in as early as the second minute when co-captain Aran Zalewski found Tom Wickham inside the circle amidst a crowded Indian defence and the latter turned and unleashed a powerful drive that found no answer from the Indian veteran keeper PR Sreejesh. India fought back after the early goal with a series of attacks that earned them three consecutive penalty corners, which went in vain.
Australia doubled their lead two minutes into the second quarter, Sharp seized the ball after Jugraj Singh slipped in the midfield and once again it was Tom Wickham who received and made it 2-0.
Even as the home team dominated proceedings, India pulled one back in the twenty-fourth minute, when Harmanpreet Singh successfully converted the fourth penalty corner, with a stinging shot to the right of Australian keeper, Andrew Charter, to make it 1-2.
In the thirteenth minute, Zalewski, who had a fine game, and was player of the match, buried a rebound off the goalkeeper's chest following a powerful attempt by Jacob Anderson, making it 3-1.
Soon after the break, India came up with a superb attempt when Hardik Singh gave a piercing long pass to the unmarked Amit Rohidas, who finished it off in style to make it 2-3. Australia, taking advantage of India being a man down and added to their tally when Daniel Beale darted into the circle from the right and squared to Anderson to make it 4-2.
With six minutes left, Australia went 5-2 up, when Ky Willet dived to retrieve and pass to Whetton who slotted it home from close range. India's fighting spirit was back to the fore when they scored twice in the final five minutes, first through another combined move, where Dilpreet Singh deflected it to Sukhjeet, who made it 3-5. Shortly after, another attack by India earned them a penalty corner and Harmanpreet made it 4-5, but the fight-back fell short.
Commenting on the series, Indian skipper Harmanpreet said that "leaving open spaces" and "lack of consistency" were part of the lessons learnt, while on the positive side the good fight and scoring proficiency augurs well for the team. India's coach, Graham Reid remarked that the 17 goals scored by India against the world champions was a highlight against the reigning world champions, and added that "there will be a lot of learning" from these outings.