Thursday, February 22, 2024

Australia take Test honours over India in key Hockey World Cup prep

It ended as it started as Australia showed they will be a force to be reckoned with at next month’s World Cup after a 5-4 win in the fifth and final match of the series against India in Adelaide.

Tom Wickham’s impressive first half brace and goals from Jacob Anderson, Jake Whetton and Player of the Series Aran Zalewski saw the Kookaburras clinch the series 4-1.

An average of five goals a game across the series underlined the Kookaburras’ attacking potency, but also underlined some fallability in defence as India scored four goals in four of the five matches.

Having this fire power at his disposal would be pleasing for Head Coach Colin Batch, however he will be keen to tighten the team’s defence after conceding 17 times in the high scoring series.

“We’ve got a lot of depth in the squad so we hope that transfers to a good performance at the World Cup but we need to get them playing consistently at a high level,” said Batch.

“We saw some really good passages of play today but we also had four goals scored against us again so that’s something we have to correct.”

Evidence that Wickham was in the goal scoring mood came after just two minutes as he received a pass from Zalewski down the centre channel before rifling home an unstoppable fore stick shot.

After the Kookaburras managed to fend off four Indian penalty corners in the first quarter, Wickham was at it again two minutes into the second quarter.

Action from the match between India and Australia

A costly slip on the wet turf from Jugraj Singh opened the door for Lachlan Sharp to split the Indian defence with a pass to Wickham who again produced a fierce and clinical finish.

India captain Harmanpreet Singh pegged a goal back when he fired a trademark drag flick low to the right of Kookaburras goalkeeper Andrew Charter.

However Zalewski restored the Kookaburras’ two goal lead just before half time when he hit his shot through the legs of Bahadur Pathak after Anderson cannoned an initial shot into the chest of the Indian goalkeeper.

India hit back again, this time through Amit Rohidas who had time to pick his spot and beat Charter at the near post.

The Kookaburras continued to look threatening whenever they entered their attacking 25 metre zone and when they spread the Indian defensive wide on the right, Daniel Beale did well near the baseline to find Anderson who flicked a half volley into the ceiling of the net.

When Ky Willott’s desperation to keep a goal scoring opportunity alive for Whetton to shoot on the turn and score, the Kookaburras led 5-2 with six minutes to play.

But like they have done throughout the series, India refused to hoist the white flag, scoring moments after Whetton’s goal before Harmanpreet thundered in his second with another drag flick in the final minute to make it 5-4 and end the scoring.

The Kookaburras will fly home to Perth on Monday to finalise their World Cup preparations before heading to India in early January ahead of the showpiece event.

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