It is never easy to regroup after a morale-pounding defeat, especially if it has to be back-to-back game. India exuded dollops of resilience putting aside the disappoinment of their 2-5 loss to France and carved out a 10-2 win over South Africa to round off their Pro Hockey League campaign in Potchefstroom on a bright note. The final scoreline hardly reflected the fight put up by the South Africans – the hosts were guilty of messing up several scoring opportunities, including a penalty stroke and who knows, the final outcome could have been a lot different if they had made their chances count.
Harmanpreet Singh did the star turn with a magnificent hat-trick en route to a four-goal blitz, coming into his elements in the final quarter to take the competiveness out of the South African outfit. Earlier, South Africa stunned India into silence by taking a 12th minute lead via a penalty corner conversion by Dan Bell. India were brought back into the contest by Surender Kumar who unleashed a rasping shot from the right. The goal triggered an extra spring in their strides as they soon scored twice via Shilanand Lakra’s maiden international goal and Mandeep Singh in two minutes just before half-time to sit pretty with a 3-1 lead.
South Africa looked really menacing in the opening few minutes of the third quarter and even earned a penalty stroke but Jethro Eustice bungled it. India made South Africa pay for their inability to convert their chances and unleashed a rain of goals. Harmanpreet Singh started his goal-scoring party firing home a short corner – Sumit unleashed a fantastic backhander and it was the turn of Shilanand Lakra to rack up his second – India’s 6th goal off a fine pass by Abhishek. Harmanpreet Singh converted a penalty stroke and then whipped home two short corners in the final quarter and that was sandwiched by a fine Shamsher Singh goal.
South Africa converted a short corner via Connor Beauchamp but it will be little solace for the hosts given the opportunities they created throughout the match. India showed how to make the most of opportunities but this South African side is a work in progress and will surely emerge stronger from this defeat.