Rajnandgaon (Chhattisgarh): Chris Ciriello converted a late penalty corner as Australia held India to a 2-2 draw in the opening game of the three-match hockey Test series here on Thursday.
Ciriello (58th minute) found the equaliser two minutes from the end after India had enjoyed a slender 2-1 lead for the entire fourth quarter following penalty corner conversions by V.R. Raghunath (28th, 43rd). Dylan Wootherspoon scored Australia's first goal in the ninth minute.
Australia started strongly and drew first blood through an early field goal by Wootherspoon.
This resulted in the Indian forwards increasing the pace. The hosts were duly rewarded with a penalty corner. Raghunath made no mistake as he converted it to restore parity as the teams went into the halftime break locked at 1-1.
The Indians started the second half at a fast pace and clinched the lead when Raghunath smashed home from another penalty corner just before the end of the fourth quarter.
The Australians pressed hard for the equaliser but the Indian defenders successfully blocked all the Australian attacks.
However, a penalty corner given in the 58th minute to Australia spoiled India’s chances of registering an important win, as the visitors converted it through Chris Ciriello to level the score at 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," India's chief coach and high performance director Roelant Oltmans said.
The remaining two matches of the series will be played on November 22 and 23 at the recently inaugurated Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel International Hockey Stadium in Raipur.
Largely billed as a warm up series before the Hockey World League Finals to be held at Raipur from November 27 to December 6, the Test series is intended to give both teams much needed match practice and allow them to test their bench strength and try out different strategies.