It was drama till end in the much anticipated match between Pakistan and India in the hockey competition of the XXI Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast, Australia.
Trailing 1-2, with just 15 seconds left, Pakistan made a penetration into the Indian circle from right. Not finding any gap, the Pakistani forwards looked for an Indian foot and believed they found one. The umpire thought otherwise. On Pakistan’s appeal, it was referred to the third umpire and the penalty corner was awarded and taken. Indians cleared the ball out of the circle. Again, Pakistanis appealed for an Indian foot and again it was passed on to the third umpire. Another PC resulted. This time, Mubashar Ali’s powerful low drag flick hit the tin below diving Indian goal keeper Sreejesh’s right elbow.
Hence, after five consecutive defeats against their arch rivals, Pakistan salvaged a well deserved draw.
In the early part of the game, it appeared to be another Indian win as they enjoyed a 2-0 lead when the teams changed the sides.
In front of a full house, the first quarter saw an up and down game though India had more of the possession and also earned the sole penalty corner. In the 12th minute, in a fluent move Sunil sent a diagonal pass from right to young Dilpreet, India’s hero of the Junior World Cup victory in 2016. Dilpreet, with all the time and space in the left side of the circle, finished with a strong push. Next minute, Ali Shan’s thunderous hit from the right side of the circle brushed off the cross bar.
With Atiq Arshad yellow carded in the first minute of the second quarter, India took advantage. They earned two back to back penalty corners both from foot faults of Pakistani defenders. Off the second, Hermanpreet extended the lead when his strong flick found the left corner of the net at the mid height.
Things got hot and after an altercation, Faisal Qadir and Akashdeep were both shown yellow. In the 25th minute, a brilliant dribbling run by captain Rizwan Senior fetched Pakistan their first penalty corner. Sreejesh made a fine save. Green shirts had two other PCs before the half time but it remained 2-0 for India.
Five minutes into the second half, Imran Butt, who had a good game, saved an RP Singh PC attempt. Immediately, a ball reached debutant Rana Sohail at the top of the circle whose reverse hit went out.
In the 38th minute, a sweeping three men Pakistan move culminated in M.Irfan Jr, unmarked near the left past, diving spectacularly to reduce the margin.
India applied immense pressure during the last few minutes of the third quarter but Pakistani deep defence stood well with the custodian Imran Butt at his best.
With their tails up, Pakistan earnestly looked for the equaliser in the last quarter. A long high ball into the Indian circle, saw one on one between the striker and the goalie but Sreejesh effected the save of the match. Soon, Pakistan had three penalty corners but the goal eluded them.
With two minutes left, India wasted a good chance when Manpreet’s reverse flick missed the target badly.
Then arrived the heart stopping action of the last 15 seconds.
Pakistan can take many positives from today’s show. It should serve as a morale booster especially after a disappointing draw against the lowly ranked Wales in the first match.
To reach the semis, they not only need to win the remaining two pool matches (against England and Malaysia) but also have favourable results from other matches.
Next, Pakistan plays England on Sunday
India: Dilpreet Singh (12′) & Harmanpreet Singh PC (19′)
Pakistan: Mohammad Irfan Jr (38′) & Mubashar Ali (60′)