Drag-flicker VR Raghunath scored two goals to help India settle for a 2-2 draw against world champions Australia in the first hockey Test of the three-match series, in Raipur on Thursday. The series has been organised as a preparation for both the teams ahead of Hero Hockey World League Finals to be held in Raipur from November 27 to December 6.
Raghunath slammed two goals for the hosts in the 28th and 43rd minute, while Australia salvaged the draw riding on an early goal by Dylan Wotherspoon (9th) and a late strike strike by penalty corner specialist Chris Ciriello (58th). Thursday’s match also marked Chhattisgarh’s first-ever exposure to an international hockey match. The remaining two Tests of the series match will be played on November 22 and 23 at the recently inaugurated Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel International Hockey Stadium in Raipur, which wil host the HWL Final. World leaders Australia drew the first blood through a field goal from Wotherspoon in the ninth minute. Stunned by the early goal from the visitors and that too in front of a packed home crowd, India showed more purpose and pressed hard for the eqauliser. Their effors bore fruit soon when India were awarded a penalty corner and Raghunath made no mistakes in slamming the ball to the back of the Australian net in the 28th minute to level the scores. After the change of ends, the Indians kept up the pressure on the Australian defence, which resulted in another goal from Raghunath through a penalty corner in the 43rd minute. The goal rattled Australia but the Kookaburras were known for their fighting spirit and came all out attacking in search of the eqauliser. The Indian defence stood tall amid a series of Australian attacks but succumbed under pressure in the final two minutes of the game and conceded a penalty corner, which was duly converted by Ciriello to make it 2-2. “It was an important match, and we were tested on all fronts. The good news is that we have shown composure and we played with the hunger to win. We will go back to reconstruct our strategy for the next match and hopefully we should see the results favouring us,” said India’s chief coach and High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans.