Captain Harmanpreet Singh got his mojo back as he scored a hat-trick, all from penalty corners, to lead India to a rare 5-4 win over Australia in a nine-goal thriller in the FIH Pro-League hockey in Rourkela, on Sunday.
Harmanpreet found the target in the 13th, 14th and 55th minutes after Australia had taken an early lead as quickly as in the second minute through a field goal from Joshua Beltz, as the home side were 2-1 ahead at the end of the first quarter.
The Indian domination continued with Jugraj Singh converting a penalty stroke in the 17th minute before Selvam Karthi scored a field goal in the 25th minute to give his side a 4-1 lead at half time.
India, who had stunned world champions Germany 3-2 on Friday, did not score any goal in the third quarter but Australia did through Ky Willott in the 42nd minute at the Birsa Munda Stadium.
The visitors scored two goals in the fourth period, both from penalty corners, through Ben Staines and Aran Zalewski in the 52nd and 56 minutes respectively.
The action-packed fourth quarter produced three goals, including that of Harmanpreet from a PC in the 55th minute, which was his hat-trick goal.
Both sides earned 10 PCs each from which India converted three while Australia scored twice.
Australia had come to India with several players who were not part of their squad that featured in the World Cup here and in Bhubaneswar in January. Eight out of the 20 players in the current squad have made 10 international appearances or less. India were also without eight players from the World Cup squad, including senior players Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh and Nilakanta Sharma, after their pre-quarterfinal exit from the showpiece. Australia silenced the home crowd early in the match when they scored in the second minute. It was Joshua Beltz who waltzed into the striking circle, beating the Indian defence for a fine goal.
The early setback, however, did not affect the home team’s rhythm as they remained persistent in their attempt to create space in the striking circle.
Dilpreet Singh, in one such attempt to drive into the circle, earned a PC for India. Harmanpreet, who had narrowly missed the first chance to score off a PC, showed great character in perfectly executing this opportunity to level the score. A minute later, Abhishek set up another PC for India and Harmanpreet scored in a similar fashion, keeping the ball low to find the corner of the post.
Only 16 seconds into the second quarter, Australia staged a comeback with a PC but young goalkeeper Pawan was on the mark to pad away Anand Gupte’s effort.