With a display that mirrored artistry, adeptness and authority, India inflicted one of the worst defeats ever on Pakistan to make the semifinal of the men's hockey competition with a 7-4 verdict on Sunday.
What a memorable contest it turned out to be for the packed audience at the Dhyan Chand Stadium! The ambience was simply enthralling. “This is the best advertisement for hockey,” gushed the FIH President, Leandro Negre, who was among the crowd along with the Secretary, Peter Cohen.
Nothing illustrates India's total control of the contest than the 12 penalty corners — the first four of them surfacing in the first 10 minutes and the lead of 4-2 at half-time.
It would be invidious to pick an individual for credit in this extraordinary victory but if one were compelled to vote, Sandeep Singh would emerge with a thumping majority. He set the tone for the battle with two impeccable conversions within 10 minutes from the start.
And, what more, he made quite a few passes, one of which was latched on to by Shivendra Singh who hit the boards for the third.
The vibrancy in the attack emerged largely from the splendid wing play of Gurbaj Singh. His runs from the right flank sent a wave of panic in the Pakistani defence with the frontline well set to provide the finishing touches.
Sandeep's strikes generated loads of confidence in the team which had everything in command. Arjun Halappa and Prabodh Trikey in the midfield, Sardar Singh the back line and Rajpal Singh played true to their touch.
By the time half-time was signalled, India was comfortably perched with a 4-2 lead — the host led 4-0 in a little over 20 minutes from the start.
But Pakistan fought back. A penalty stroke by Muhammad Irfran, after Vikram Pillay came in the way of a penalty corner, was followed by a brilliant deflection by Rizwan off a long hit by Irfan.
Danish Mujtaba made good a rebounder after Sandeep's strike popped off goal-keeper Imran Shah's pads.
This was followed by a bewitching field goal. Vikram Pillay set the move which was carried on by Shivendra and ended with Dharam Vir tapping in the sixth goal. Equally elegant was the seventh goal when Shivendra whipped in a cross from Rajpal Singh.
Spasmodic though the Pakistanis were in their work outs, whenever they made a move, they looked dangerous. Shakeel Abbasi and Irfan showed when the latter netted the third and the former hit in a backhander late in the day.
India will play England and the defending champion, Australia, is set to take on New Zealand in the semifinals.
India finished with nine points, and Australia with 12.
The results: Men: Pool A: Australia 7 (Luke Doerner 3, Simon Orchard, Glenn Tuner, Chriss Ciriello, Ed Ockenden) beat Malaysia 0.
India 7 (Sandeep Singh 2, Shivendra 2, Dharamvir Singgh, Saranjit Singh, Danish Mujtaba) beat Pakistan 4 (Imran Mohammad, Muhammad Rizwan, Irfan Muhammad, Shakeel Abbasi).
Pool B: England 2 (Ashley Jackson, James Tindell) beat South Africa 1(Taine Paton).
Canada 1 (Sukhwinder Singh) drew with New Zealand 1 (Hayden Shaw) 1-0.
Keywords: Commonwealth Games