Indian men's hockey team beat Australia, finally!

Indian men's team celebrates a goal against Australia. Mark Brake/Getty Images for Hockey Australia

With a minute to go for the final hooter, Hardik Singh hits the ball straight down the turf. Mandeep Singh collects the pass just outside the circle, turns and gives the ball to Akashdeep Singh who takes one touch and slots the ball inside the net. This is a typical Australian goal, but only this time it is scored by India. Just three-four touches from defence to attacking area and goal!

With this strike, the score was 4-3 to India in the Match No. 3 of the Test series. They managed to keep the lead till the 60th minute and finally broke the 12-match losing streak against Australia. In fact, this is India's first win against Australia since 2016 (excluding shootouts).

So, how did India do it?

Firstly, the credit should go to the defence and PR Sreejesh. In the previous two matches, the team conceded 12 goals, losing both the games. India head coach Graham Reid had earlier spoken about making tweaks without compromising the natural style of the team. On Wednesday, those tweaks came in the way of man-marking the Australians and reducing the spaces between midfield and defence.

Australia, especially in the second match of the series when they scored seven goals, exploited the spaces in the midfield and made Indians pay for it. For this one, India made their midfield compact, and the one-on-one defending was generally solid throughout the match. Unlike in the previous matches, Australia couldn't run away with the match with their devastating efficiency, usually seen in a space of one or two quarters.

When the final quarter started, the score was 2-1 to Australia but India's overall improvement was evident by that point so they were still in the game. While India's defence made it tougher for Australia, Sreejesh's form was giving India a chance. The veteran keeper had already made a fantastic triple save in the second quarter to keep the scoreline 1-0 to India.

Later in the fourth quarter, facing a penalty corner with the score 3-2 to India's favour, Sreejesh pulled off a brilliant split save, using his right leg to block the shot. He saved another penalty corner seconds later, but the rebound fell to Nathan Ephraums who converted the chance from a close range to make it 3-3.

Then came Akashdeep Singh, proving a point

When Akashdeep scored his goal in the opening match of the series, he made a gesture telling the world that he belongs in the team. He scored two more in the same match to complete his hat-trick.

Having missed the Pro League matches against Spain and New Zealand, Akashdeep had a point to prove. This Australia tour was his big chance to cement his spot in the India's 2023 World Cup squad. And so far, he has done more than enough.

In the third match, when India were trailing 1-2 in the final quarter, it was Akashdeep who won the penalty corner which resulted in a goal. He collected the ball on the left side inside the circle and showed his control with his dribbling skills to push the ball towards the foot of the Australian defender and earn the penalty corner. India went for a variation and Abhishek ensured India drew level in the opening minute of the final quarter.

Later, Akashdeep scored India's match-winning goal in the last minute, once again showing the value of having an experienced player. No panic at all as he collected the pass from Mandeep with players around him, and calmly finished the job.

It was indeed a deserving win for India as they kept the five-match series alive at 2-1. The next two matches will be on the weekend.

The only sore note came after the match when two teams were involved in a shootout practice. Sreejesh's attempted tackle resulted in an injury for Ky Willott and Australian coach Colin Batch calling it a 'vicious act' with a deliberate intention to take the player out. Earlier, Australia's Blake Govers - who was in great form in this series - didn't play the second half after sustaining an injury.