India managed to hold on to a draw in the 4th match against New Zealand to seal a historic test series win by a margin of 2-1 against the home team in Christchurch, today. The visitors had gone into the final encounter with an unassailable lead on the back of consecutive victories in Nelson and Christchurch.
The opening quarter began with New Zealand exerting pressure on the Indian team and looking for scoring opportunities. But, the Indian defense quelled the challenge efficiently. In the 11th minute, the tourists earned a penalty corner. However, they failed to convert it into a goal. The rebound shot was taken advantage of by Kane Russell whose dangerous pass was intercepted by the Indian defenders in front of an open goal.
In the 2nd quarter, the Indians shifted their strategy to revolve around the attacking wing-duo of the rapid SV Sunil and Manpreet Singh. The move paid dividends as India nearly broke through, with a well-orchestrated pass finding Dharamvir Singh. Unfortunately for his team, Dharamvir’s shot was countered with a flawless save from the Kiwi custodian, Kyle Pontifax. Both teams went to half-time ruing several missed chances to score.
New Zealand began strongly in the third-quarter with controlling the possession in a coherent manner. Soon, their attacking intent resulted in an opening. Nick Ross flummoxed 2 defenders on the way to score a field-goal which put the home-team ahead in the 41st minute. But, India bounced back strongly by sustaining pressure on the New Zealand defenders. The Indian forwards combined together to level the scorecard. Amidst chaotic surroundings, SV Sunil slotted in the equalizer from a difficult angle.
The final quarter saw both teams desperately trying to take the lead. Despite several tense moments towards the end of the match, India staved off the New Zealand forward-line to ensure a drawn encounter and emerge victorious in the test series. This was the Indian team’s second successive series victory after they had triumphed in the previous year against Australia 3-1, in Perth.
Colin Batch, the New Zealand coach felt that there were plenty of positives for his side, despite the loss. He said, “I thought we played pretty well today. In the areas that we have been working on there has been good progress, I think it was our best performance even though we didn’t win the game. India tested us and we overcame those challenges well today, so a lot of positives have come out of the game but of course the game is about winning and we didn’t do that today.”
New Zealand will participate in the 2015 Oceania Cup in order to mount a last-ditch attempt to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. The Oceania Cup will begin on October 17 in Stratford. Meanwhile, India will take on World Number-1 Australia in a test series from November 19 to 23.