By S. THYAGARAJAN
PIC: Rajpal Singh celebrates with teammates after defeating England in the 2nd semifinal of the men's hockey at Major Dhyanchand National Hockey Stadium in New Delhi on Tuesday. PTI
IT is difficult to pitch on the right epithet to convey the mood of exuberance after India made the first entry into the hockey final of the Commonwealth Games on Tuesday
Before a huge crowd and in a pulsating combat, embellished by some exquisite goals, India edged out England by a sensational verdict of eight goals to seven after the tie breaker to set up a gold medal clash with Australia on Thursday.
What made the whole exercise to remain etched on the mid for years to come was the grit and determination of the home team to stage a comeback and make good a two goals deficit.
The initial flourish, which brought India into the lead after Saranjit Singh netted, began to in the later stages of the first half.
England used this sluggish phase to level through Ashley Jackson. And, Jackson added one more shortly after the break from a blinding penalty corner hit. Then Simon Mantell converted another to give England, what at that point, looked an unbeatable lead.
Rarely have we seen the Indians stage such a recovery, which they did last night. Even as visions popped up of India’s quest for gold might vanishing in thin air the team staged a historical recovery.
In a spell that eloquently projected India’s hockey ethos of fluency, finesse and forward thrusts, Vikram Pillay deflected a long hit by Sandeep Singh into the net, Within minutes came the leveler by Sarvanjit off a pass from Sardar Singh. India had the whip-hand in the extra-time, but two agonizing misses by Tushar Khandekar stretched the match into the extra-time.
If this in a nutshell mirrors the sequence of scoring, the report would be incomplete without a tribute to the role of Sardar Singh at the back line, Halappa’s charming forward passes, Sandeep Singh’s long and accurate drives that sent the rival defenders into a state of panic, and the solid work of Vikram Pillay.
And finally, goal-keeper Chettri for that brilliant save from Kirkham in the tie breaker that eventually tilted the scales on India amidst spontaneous approbation.
India is now assured of a medal, which it did not get in 1998 and 2006.
In total command from the push off, the Aussies authored an attractive 6-2 success against the Kiwis to make the fourth successive final in the men’s hockey competition.
Exemplary in every layer, the ingenuity and improvisations effected by the team were evocative and educational.
The margin clearly masks the effort, energy and efficiency of the Kiwis, who made a gallant bid late in the second half to keep the fight alive till the final whistle.
Simon Child symbolized the danger element. It was a pity that his efforts went unrewarded in the end. Steve Edwards and Brad Shaw were the others who were noticeably energetic.
Pace management is Australia’s virtue. This element was executed with care. Content with probing till a modicum of rhythm was accomplished, the velocity of the Aussie attack intensified progressively.
With the ubiquitous Jaime Dwyer marshalling forces, the stress on the Kiwi defenders became pronounced, notwithstanding the intrepidity displayed by goal-keeper, Kyle Pontifex. Some of his saves were a delight to behold.
The Aussies tightened the after Luke Doerner’s successive penalty corners failed to fructify. Simon Orchard flung open the doors with a smashing shot. Then the string of goals followed.
Glenn Turner and Jason Wilson enlarged the margin with Abbott adding one more after the break.
The best spell for the Kiwis came when Blair Hilton executed a thundering drive to beat Nathan Burgers at the Aussie goal and Phil Burrows tapped in a cross from the rest.
Pepped up by this turn, the Kiwis forced the pace. But the Aussies neutralized the advantage when Glenn Turner scored a superb diving goal. This was followed by Simon Orchard off a pass from Jaime Dwyer.
Pakistan surrendered a two goal advantage, suffered a red card suspension (Muhammad Irfan from umpire-Greenfield from New Zealand) and conceded the golden goal to tumble down against South Africa to the sixth place. Pakistan was a silver medallist in the last edition while South Africa’s best placing-fifth-in 1998 at Kuala Lumpur.
(9-10) Scotland 7 (Cameron Fraser, Niali Stott, Christopher Nelson, William Marshall, Kenneth Bain 2, Alan Forsyth) beat Trinidad and Tobago 0 HT-2-0. (5-6): Pakistan v South Africa.(5-6): South Africa 3 ( Justin Ross 2, one golden goal, Gareth Carr) beat Pakistan 2 (Rehan Butt) HT 0-1.
Semi-finals: India 3 (Sarvanjit Singh 2, Vikram Pillay) beat England 3 (Ashley Jackson 2, Simon Mantell) HT 1-1.Tie breaker: India 5(Sarvanjit Singh, Vikram Pillay, Sandeep Singh, Arjun Halappa, Shivendra Singh);England 4 ( Richard Smith, Richard Mantell, Ashley Jackson, Harry Martin) Total 8-7.
Australia 6 (Simon Orchard 2, Glenn Turner 2, Jason Wilson, Desmond Abbott) beat New Zealand 2 (Blair Hilton, Phil Burrows) HT 3-0;
Wednesday’s matches: Women: (3-4) England v South Africa (10 a.m.);
FINAL: NEW ZEALAND V AUSTRALIA (1-30 p.m.)