India beat New Zealand 3-1 to square Hockey series

Nelson (New Zealand), Oct 7 (IANS) After losing their opener, the Indian hockey team came back strongly to beat New Zealand 3-1 in the second game to level the four-match bilateral Test series 1-1 here on Wednesday.

Unlike the previous match where the visitors lost 0-2, India lifted their tempo and displayed attacking hockey which helped them score three goals, one each coming from the sticks of Ramandeep Singh, Lalit Upadhyay and Nikkin Thimmaiah.

India went in to attack right from the start which helped them build the initial pressure over the hosts. The opening minutes saw Chinglensana Singh attack from the right flank as he entered the D of the opponents, but the alert New Zealand defence thwarted the attempt.

Keeping constant pressure, World No.8 India earned a penalty corner in the 10th minute but the ball was hit wide of the post.

But only three minutes later, Birendra Lakra gave a crucial cross to Ramandeep who opened the account for India on a rebound, giving his team the lead.

India continued their attacks in the second quarter. A brilliant move by Dharamvir Singh caught the New Zealand defence on the back foot but his shot was blocked by an observant Black Sticks goalkeeper.

The Kiwis in turn capitalised on a counter attack, but could not break the Indian defence.

In the 23rd minute, the hosts were awarded with a penalty corner but Indian custodian P.R. Sreejesh came out with a brilliant save to make sure India went into halftime with a 1-0 lead.

At the restart, an unmarked Gurjinder Singh had a great chance to double the lead in the 33th minute but he deflected the ball wide of the post. New Zealand immediately counter attacked and won a penalty corner two minutes later Sreejesh stood tall and cleared the danger yet again.

New Zealand kept on pressing hard for their equaliser throughout the third quarter and they were successful when Kane Russell, in the 45th minute, converter a penalty corner chance for the much needed equaliser to go into the last 15 minutes 1-1.

Both sides tried out different strategies to score the goal in the last quarter but it was India who were rewarded for being consistent with their attacks when Manpreet Singh’s accurate pass to Upadhyay helped India take the 2-1 advantage in the 52nd minute.

Then in the last minute of the match Thimmaiah put it completely beyond New Zealand’s reach when he scored his side’s third goal to level the series for the India.

The third match between the two sides will be played on October 9 at Christchurch.

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