Akashdeep Singh’s hat-trick went in vain as India conceded a last-minute goal to lose 4-5 to Australia in the high-scoring first hockey Test of the five-match series in Adelaide on Saturday.
Akashdeep (10th, 27th, 59th) scored thrice, while skipper Harmanpreet Singh (31st) converted a penalty corner for India.
For Australia, Lachlan Sharp (5th), Nathan Ephraums (21st), Tom Craig (41st) and Blake Govers (57th, 60th) found the back of the Indian net.
The game looked headed for a 4-4 draw when Govers put the host on top with a last-minute goal.
Australia started on an attacking note and took the lead in the fifth minute, with Sharp slotting home past India custodian PR Sreejesh with his first touch of the match.
The Indians responded within minutes, with Amit Rohidas creating a great move from the left flank, but his ball was intercepted inside the circle by the Australian defence.
Akashdeep equalised for India in the 11th minute after Hardik Singh made a wonderful interception to create the opportunity. Six minutes into the second quarter, Australia restored its lead, courtesy of poor defending from the Indians as they failed to clear a cross and Ephraums got a deflection to put the ball into the net. Akashdeep again came to India’s rescue and scored with a fierce reverse hit in the 27th minute to level the scores.
Just on the stroke of half-time, Australia got a penalty corner, but India’s second goalkeeper Krishan Bahadur Pathak was alert to avert the danger. A minute after the change of ends, Harmanpreet gave India the lead for the first time in the match, scoring from a penalty corner. The Indians then secured back-to-back penalty corners but wasted both. In the 41st minute, the Kookaburras secured another penalty corner, and Craig scored from a rebound after Sreejesh saved the initial drag-flick.
The home team continued to press hard and secured a handful of penalty corners but failed to cash in on the opportunities. India was sloppy on the turf in the last five minutes of the game as Jarmanpreet Singh got an unnecessary green card, leaving his side a man down for the rest of the game.
Australia took full advantage and secured another penalty corner, which was converted by Govers with a powerful flick. But Akashdeep levelled the scores a minute from the final hooter, scoring from a goalmouth melee. However, poor defending from the Indians inside their own circle cost them as Australia earned two more penalty corners, and Govers once again found the net with the second attempt to hand the home team a 1-0 lead in the series.
The second match of the series will be played on Sunday. India comes into the series following the home leg of FIH Pro League 2022-23, where it faced New Zealand and Spain in two matches each.
The Harmanpreet Singh-led side won three games, including one in a shootout, and lost one.