Star Forward Akashdeep Singh’s blinder in the dying moments of the game helped India edge past Australia, 3-2, in the final hockey Test, but the hosts ended up losing the series when they faltered in the deciding penalty shootout, in Ranchi . India played a gritty game against the reigning world champions, to steal a worthy win, in the third and final match, after drawing the opening Test, and then losing out in the second.
With the score reading 3-2 at the final whistle, the match moved into the penalty shoot out to decide the winner of the series, which was tied at 1-1. The first match ended in a 2-2 draw, on November 19, while the Australians won the second encounter, 2-1 . As per the rules for the Test series, the series winner had to be decided by a penalty shootout, which was won 3-2 by the visitors.
Daniel Beale, Matt Gohdes, and Chris Ciriello, converted their attempts for Australia. Birender Lakra was the only Indian to convert his attempt, while Raghunath scored from a penalty stroke, after Amir Khan was fouled by Australian goalkeeper, Tristan Clemons.
Dharamvir Singh, who took India’s fifth and final attempt, was also fouled by Clemons. Raghunath stepped up to take the resultant penalty stroke, but this time, Clemons guessed correctly, to deny the drag-flicker, and clinch the series for Australia.
The match started with the first quarter going goalless. India drew first blood in the second quarter, when VR Raghunath converted a penalty corner to give India the lead in the 17th minute. Luck was on Raghnath’s side, when his solid drag flick took a deflection, and beat the Australian goalkeeper. The veteran drag flick specialist has scored 12 goals from penalty corners in 31 matches this year.
India went into the third quarter with a 1-0 lead. Australia equalised through Trent Mitton’s 36th minute field goal, which was his first successful strike of the series. It was horrible defending by Rupinder Pal Singh, who lost the ball in the attacking third. Mitton was quick to pounce on the gift and ran through the ‘Dee’ to beat goalkeeper Harjot Singh easily. But Rupinder made up for his folly six minutes later, when he gave India the lead again. The score read 2-1, as Rupinder converted a penalty corner in the 41st minute. It was Rupinder’s 50th career goal. Brilliantly taken with a firm push that was straight, and hit the roof of the net.
But just when it looked like India would maintain their lead till time, Mitton once again scored for Australia in the 54th minute, to make matters even, at 2-2. But it was Akashdeep who found the net in the final few seconds to give India a 3-2 win and a chance to win the series in the shoot out.
But Akashdeep could not show his magic in the shoout-out as he missed his strike and Australia took the series. Birendra Lakra, and Rupinder, from India, scored in the shoot-out, while Sardar Singh, Akashdeep, and Raghunath, missed scoring. Daniele Beale, Matt Gohdes, and Chris Ciriello, scored for Australia in the shoot out.
India may have lost the series, but they have gained some crucial match practice ahead of the FIH World League Final, starting later this week.
“I am happy that we won the match. It is good for the team as we enter the Hero Hockey World League with a lot of confidence. We have a few days before the tournament starts and we intend to devote time addressing our grey areas,” said Director High Performance and Chief Coach Indian Men Team, Roelant Oltmans.
The Hero Hockey World League finals will be played at the Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel International Stadium, from 27 November to 6 December.