India thrashed South Africa 4-0 with an energetic performance to take a 1-0 lead in the five-match hockey Test series at the National Stadium here on Monday.

The host gave a good account of its improved fitness by playing a fast and entertaining first half, in which Shivendra Singh (15th), Birendra Lakra (24th) and Sardar Singh (28th) shot home to give India a 3-0 lead at half-time. S.K. Uthappa (53rd) completed the tally in the second half.

S.V. Sunil, Tushar Khandker and K. Chinglesana Singh constantly troubled the South African defenders. Shivendra hit the target off a Manpreet Singh pass to put India ahead. The host increased the lead through Lakra, who tapped in a precise cross from Chinglesana on the left. Sardar, who occasionally moved up from his mid-field position to bring an element of surprise, scored a rare goal. Sunil, who sparkled with his fiery raids, was the architect of the third strike. From the right, he launched a quick shot into the circle and in no time Khandker deflected it to an unmarked Sardar to complete the formalities. The home team lost its coordination a little bit after the change of ends and struggled to finish off moves. However, Uthappa scored off a fine V.S. Vinaya cross from outside the circle to record the lone success of the second half.

The defence had some testing times, but goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh made some fabulous saves to deny the South Africans any goal.

India's chief coach Michael Nobbs praised Sunil and youngsters — defender Harbir Singh and Uthappa — for their showing.

“We made a lot of mistakes in the second half. We could have scored six or seven more goals,” Nobbs summed up the team's performance.

The result: India 4 (Shivendra Singh, Birendra Lakra, Sardar Singh, S.K. Uthappa) bt South Africa 0.

Keywords: Indian hockey

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