South Africa stuns Pakistan; Australia beats Spain

India capitulated to England's method and mobility and slipped out of contention for a semifinal berth in the Hero Honda hockey World Cup on Saturday. England earned its spot with a commanding tally of 12 points after a fourth straight victory in Pool B.

A solitary win four matches makes even a third place in the Pool virtually impossible for India. On Monday, the home team takes on South Africa, which produced a scintillating show against Pakistan earlier on Saturday to win 4-3.

Early forays

Every minute was relished by the capacity crowd. Launching a series of raids with Sardar Singh as the pivot, the Indians were clearly on a high almost throughout the first half. Forthright and feverish in their work outs, India's dominance at the rival end almost looked absolute.

England's defenders, very stubborn and well defined, smothered every sally with utmost composure. Ben Hawes at the right and Glenn Kirkham engaged the Indian attackers in clean and clever tackles and interceptions.

Sardar Singh's forward passes backed by the agile Vikram Pillay paved the forwards to create openings. All that they could do was only create intense pressure but no goals. The few chances that came up were stopped neatly by goal-keeper James Fair.

Tindell on target

England's lead midway through came against the run of play. A crisp cross by Fox opened the zone for James Tindell, who delicately deflected the ball past goal-keeper Adrian D' Souza.

India had two penalty corners taken by Sandeep and Diwakar. Neither could split the rival guards. One electrifying run by Shivendra Singh raised ripples of excitement among the packed galleries in the first half.

India continued to press in the second half but the tenacity of the England's defenders could not be loosened. Rajpal's angled firm shot missed the mark by inches.

It was England that struck again with Ashley Jackson producing a splendid penalty corner shot. England increased the leeway when Jackson capitalised on a goal-mouth scrimmage to slot the third goal.

The one moment to relish for India came midway in the second half. A tailor made-centre by Gurbaj put Gurvinder Chandi in the right spot to narrow the margin.

Shivendra then launched an attractive sally with Sarwanjit Singh which ended in Rajpal Singh pushing the ball into the boards.

However, India's brave show was insufficient to take it to victory or even share points.

Great comeback

Earlier, with a display that demonstrated fighting qualities and projected an infectious ardour, South Africa etched a 4-3 victory over four-time champion Pakistan that stunned everyone on Saturday.

It was an upset of the first magnitude. Trailing 0-1 at half-time, the South Africans produced a bright spell that floored the Pakistanis comprehensively.

Blitzkrieg

Inspired by the splendid mid-field show of skipper Austin Smith, the South Africans peppered the rival defensive wall in a matter of minutes after the break.

Gareth Carr led the blitzkrieg with a thundering a penalty corner and that was followed by a brilliant finish by Ian Haley. Minutes later came the third from Taine Paton and Marvin Harper netted a scorcher from the right to leave the seasoned Salman Akbar in a daze.

Humbled and humiliated, the Pakistanis were desperate to get back. The South African defenders gave little elbow room and only late in the match did they cave in.

Imran Muhammad slammed in a penalty corner three minutes from end. With seconds left, Pakistan forced a penalty corner which slipped out of the regulation time. There were in all three attempts with the last one culminating in a goal after a shot by Waseem Ahmed.

The victory that Australia accomplished against Spain was anything but fluent. The consolation was the three points from the 2-0 victory, with a goal coming in each half.

Luke Doerner, the ever dependable penalty corner striker for the Aussies, gave the lead which the team clung on to till late into the second half.

Spain leaned heavily on Pol Amat. If only the lanky striker had succeeded in capping the solo run he made late in the first half, the script could have been different.

The Aussies breathed a sigh of relief only when Tuner struck.

The results: Pool B: Australia 2 (Luke Doerner, Glenn Tuner) bt Spain 0. HT 1-0.

South Africa 4 (Gareth Carr, Ian Haley, Taine Paton, Marvin Harper) bt Pakistan 3 (Rehan Butt, Imran Muhammad, Waseem Ahmed). HT 0-1.

England 3 (James Tindell, Ashley Jackson 2) bt India 2 (Guruvinder Singh Chandi, Rajpal Singh) HT 1-0.

Sunday's matches: Korea vs. Canada (4.35 p.m.); New Zealand vs. Argentina (6.35 p.m.); Germany v Netherlands (8.35 p.m.).

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