India squandered the lead twice as Great Britain rallied to earn a 2-2 draw in the rain-delayed opening match at the 26th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament here. Akashdeep Singh (19th minute) and Mandeep Singh (48th minute) scored field goals to give India the lead two times in the match but only to see the Britons hit back through Tom Carson (25th) and Alan Forsyth (52nd). India survived a last-minute penalty corner that was awarded against them for an obstruction outside the circle. The penalty corner was confirmed after the video referral by India, but British captain Phil Roper sent his drag flick wide to the right. In the last encounter between these two teams, India had defeated Great Britain 2-1 in the Champions Trophy in London last year.
The match started two hours behind schedule after the teams, who were warming up, had to scurry off the turf when lightening and heavy showers arrived in the afternoon. Heavy showers and lightening have been a feature of the tropical weather this season. Since the introduction of artificial pitches, hockey is no longer affected by normal rains, but matches are stopped midway at the slightest sign on lightening to avert any threat to players and officials on the pitch.
As the Indian and British players ran off the pitch and the start of the game was deferred, organisers were bracing for frequent disruptions during the week-long tournament. India are scheduled to play four of their five round- robin league matches in the afternoon, exactly when dark clouds tend to drench the pitch at the Ipoh hockey stadium. Great Britain launched the first raid in the ninth minute and Henry Weir took a reverse shot at the goal from top of the circle, only to see goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh pad the ball away.
Three minute later, India could have posed a danger to the British citadel when Akashdeep beat a defender guarding the circle with a shot that went straight to S.V. Sunil inside the scoring zone. But Sunil failed to trap the ball and British goalkeeper Harry Gibson was not tested. India were awarded their first penalty corner when Pradeep Mor’s diagonal ball landed on a defender’s foot in the circle.
The penalty corner shot could not be taken as the push was not stopped, but Manpreet Singh, captain for this match, picked up the ball on the 25-metre line and sent a firm drive into the circle. Manpreet’s shot was padded by the British goalkeeper and the rebound went straight to Akashdeep, who capitalised on the chance by beating the custodian with his flick that put India in the lead in the 19th minute.
The British team mounted an attack in the next minute, forcing India to pack the circle to thwart any danger. Great Britain were not to be denied the equaliser in the 25th minute when a fine foray by Ollie Willars split open the Indian defence. Dribbling parallel to the goal-line from the right flank, Willars sent a pass to Carlson, who made the most of his fine positioning by shooting into the goal. India had their second penalty corner cancelled on a video referral by Great Britain, who challenged the umpire’s view of a defender carrying the ball.
When several replays could not conclusively establish if the ball had touched a defender’s foot, the video umpire reversed the decision. India reclaimed the lead in the 48th minute when Sunil relayed a narrow-angle pass from Manpreet on the left flank for Mandeep Singh, who deflected the ball past goalkeeper Gibson. India’s lead was short-lived as the determined British made the most of their 52nd minute attack even in a crowded circle. The Indian defenders were not able to clear the ball, which was switched around four Britons before Alan Forsyth’s flick beat Indian custodian Sreejesh.