It was a match that had all the ingredients of a thriller something the sizeable crowd at the MATA Stadium in Adelaide was keenly looking forward to. The world number five and Olympic bronze medallists India gave their numerous fans a lot to roar about as they halted the Kookaburras in their tracks, pulling off a stellar 4-3 win to keep the five Test series alive after losing the first two Tests- Why this win would be all the more sweeter is because it was India’s first victory over Australia in six years – in November 2016 India had prevailed over the Aussies 3-2 in a Test match at Bendigo.
Six years is a long time and the Indian team would understand the ‘significance’ of this win a month before the 2023 World Cup to be held in India. The Blueshirts skipper Hamranpreet Singh profited from a short corner late in the opening quarter to help his side wrest the early initiative. The Australians were dealt a big blow when their in-form drag-flicking striker Blake Govers trudged off the pitch with a lower calf injury in the first half.
It may not be fair to suggest that the Aussies were overly reliant on Govers, but his absence was felt as India adhered to a disciplined structure and did not allow the Kookaburras play free-flowing hockey. Jack Welch brought the hosts back into the contest before half-time pulling off a deflection goal off a shortie unleashed by Jeremy Hayward, who had to shoulder the bulk of the penalty corner-taking resposiblities in the asence of Govers. India defended resolutely as goalkeeper Sreejesh was outstanding backed by admirable support from the deep defence – in the 22nd of play India foiled as many as five consecutive shot attempts from Australia off a short corner.
Australia got their noses in front when Aran Zalewski – one of the joint capatains of Australia – put his side ahead for the first time in the match sneaking in a deflection off a Jeremy Hayward short corner and the hosts held the 2-1 lead going into the final quarter, where India dished out their best of the match. Abhishek restored party flicking home a Hamranpreet Singh penalty corner – he became India’s third highest all-time goal-scorer jointly alongside Rupinder Pal Singh with125 goals. The visitors made the most of another PC when Shamsher Singh, who initially injected ball during the PC routine, nudged the ball home with four minutes left for the final hooter after Jugraj Singh’s PC effort was initially foiled by the Aussie goalkeeper.
India must have thought that the match was in their bag but Nathan Ephraums showed quick reflexes to slot home off another Jeremy Hayward shortie with little more than a minute to go. It was left to Hardeep Singh to unfurl a ‘killer’ reverse pass to an unselfish Mandeep Singh, who fed Akashdeep Singh, who came with a cool backhand flick to rack up the match-clincher, triggering animated scenes in the Indian camp.
With dollops of confidence under their belt with this famous win, India would back themselves to stay hyper-competitive in the remaining two Tests and come home with their heads held high.