India loses 2-4 to Australia in second hockey Test, trails series 0-2

The Indian men’s hockey team dished out a much-improved performance as compared to its previous game but it still lost 2-4 to Australia in the second Test of the five-match series on Sunday.

After the 1-5 drubbing they received on Saturday, the Indians were able to play in equal terms against their formidable opponents in the first and second quarters of the match.

In fact, India was 2-1 ahead at half time, but some sloppy defending in the third quarter cost it dearly as the host pumped in three goals to register its second straight win.

Jeremy Hayward (6th and 34th minutes) converted two penalty corners, while Jacob Anderson (42nd) and Nathan Ephraums (45th) found the net from field efforts for Australia.

India’s both goals came off penalty corner conversions by Jugraj Singh (9th) and skipper Harmanpreet Singh (30th).

The Indians started on the front foot in the game with vice-captain Hardik Singh heavily involved in the middle field.

But Australia took the lead from its first penalty corner in the sixth minute through Hayward, who sounded the board with a powerful low drag-flick to the right of Indian goalkeeper Krishan Bahadur Pathak, who started the match under the bar in place of veteran PR Sreejesh.

READ | Indian men’s hockey team suffers 1-5 thrashing at hands of Australia in first Test

The Kookaburras looked threatening after taking the lead as they earned back-to-back penalty corners soon after but the Indian defence stood tall.

The Indians slowly got their footing into the match and started to put pressure on the Australian defence and in the process secured three consecutive penalty corners.

While the first two penalty corners went abegging, Jugraj drew parity for the visitors in the ninth minute with a fierce flick to the left top corner of the Australian goal.

The goal seemed to have given a lot of confidence to the Indians as Abhishek came tantalisingly close to doubling the visitor’s lead in the 12th minute.

An unmarked Abhishek received a fine ball inside the Australian ‘D’ with only the keeper to beat, but he hit the cross bar.

A minute from the first quarter, Australia secured another penalty corner, but the push was not perfect.

In the second quarter, the Indian defence had to withstand immense pressure from the Kookaburras but didn’t falter.

Just 41 seconds from half-time, India secured a penalty corner and skipper Harmanpreet made no mistake to score his 180th career goal and hand his side a 2-1 lead.

Trailing by a goal, the Australians came out all guns blazing after the change of ends and pumped in three goals to show their domination over India.

Four minutes into the third quarter, Australia secured a penalty corner and Hayward scored his second of the match to level the scores.

It was yet another lesson for the Indians, who played catch-up hockey and failed to match the Australians for the second consecutive day.

It was relentless pressure from Australia which broke the Indian defence on more than one occasion.

Anderson registered his name in the scoresheet in the 42nd minute, deflecting from a build up by Matt Dawson and Jack Welch, literally catching Indian custodian Pathak off-guard.

The Indians secured two more penalty corners minutes later but Harmanpreet failed to breach the Australian defence.

Just a few seconds left in the third quarter, Ephraums found himself at the right place at the right time to slap in a deflection from an Indian defender past Pathak from a quick turnover to make it 4-2.

The fourth quarter witnessed a cagey affair from both sides as the Indians went all out in attacking in search of goals while the Australians were contend in sitting deep in their defence.

Even though the Indians tried hard but they failed to create any real scoring opportunity with the home team defending in numbers.

The third Test match of the series, titled Perth International Festival of Hockey, will be played here on April 10.

The series is a part of preparations for this year’s Paris Olympics for both the sides.

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