New Delhi: Star drag-flicker Sandeep Singh converted a late penalty corner to hand India a 2-1 win over South Africa in the second hockey Test on Tuesday.
By virtue of this win, India now leads the five-Test series 2-0. The home team had on Monday defeated South Africa 4-0 in the series opener.
The Indians scored their goals late in both the halves through Chingelsana Singh (33rd minute) and Sandeep (68th), while Lance Louw (43rd) was the lone goal getter for South Africa at the Dhyan Chand national stadium here.
Despite the win, the Indians were far from impressive on Tuesday and looked scrappy throughout the 70 minutes.
As expected India coach Michael Nobbs made nine changes in the starting line-up and gave the captain`s armband to Tushar Khandekar, who played his 200th international match, in place of Sardara Singh, who was rested.
The changes seemed to have disturbed the home team`s rhythm as the Indians looked rusty and out of sorts for most part of the opening period.
Contrary to Monday’s first Test, the Indians lacked sting in their attack and the lack of co-ordination between the mid-field and forward line was quite evidently visible.
The Indians were also found wanting at short corner conversions as they utilised one out of the three they earned.
The South Africans, on the other hand, came out with more purpose and displayed impressive hockey from the onset but what did them in was the finishing of their strikers.
The visitors created their first scoring chance in the ninth minute and if not for Indian goalkeeper Bharat Chetri, who played in place of P R Sreejesh, the home team could have conceded the advantage early.
An agile Chetri denied South Africa the lead when he blocked Llyod Norris Jones` hit from close range.
The Indians, on the other hand, created their first real scoring chance in the 30th minute but young Dharamvir Singh shot wide from close range after he was set up by a one-two from S K Uthappa and Vikram Pillay.
India, however, managed to go into the breather with a 1-0 lead when Chingelsana Singh scored in the 33rd minute following some brilliant stick work by Sandeep.
Soon after the change of ends, India got their first penalty corner but V S Vinay failed to stop Tushar`s push.
Down by a goal, South Africa came all-out attacking in the second period.
The visitors put the Indian defence under immense pressure with continuous raids which earned them three back-to-back short corners just after the breather, but they wasted all the opportunities.
But the tourists restored parity in the 43rd minute when Lance Louw scored from a goal-mouth melee.
Thereafter, South Africa played better hockey for most part of the second half and created a lot of scoring opportunities but their forwards failed the finishing touch.
India managed to eke out the victory just two minutes from the hooter when Sandeep scored with a powerful flick from their third and final short corner.
Nobbs, however, was far from impressed with the performance of the team.
"We were not thorough enough today. We made a lot of unforced errors and we were lucky to get out," he said.
"Today I made nine changes and this particular combination has not played together. We are trying to build our base but at the same time we are trying not to lose also."
He also lauded Sandeep`s performance, whom the Australian played at the top.
"Sandeep is much more mobile now and he is proving to be quite versatile."
Meanwhile, South Africa coach Gregg Clark was utterly disappointed with the result of the match as he feels his wards played much better hockey than the Indians.
"It was a much better performance from us. We created a lot of chances, but just couldn`t score. I am very disappointed with the result," Clark said.
"I feel our performance has improved by 80 per cent."