India blank South Africa 4-0 in 1st Test

New Delhi: India kicked off their preparations for next month`s London Olympic qualifiers in style thrashing South Africa 4-0 in the first hockey Test, here today. The Indians scored three goals in the first half through Shivendra Singh (15th minute), Birendra Lakra (24th), Sardara Singh (28th), while the last one came from the stick of debutant S K Uthappa (53rd) after the change of ends.

With the Olympic qualifiers just a month away, India`s chief coach Michael Nobbs utilized the match to test his combination and bench strength and fielded two debutants – Harbir Singh and Uthappa – in the starting line-up. Nobbs also did not field his first choice goalkeeper and regular skipper Bharat Chetri and instead played PR Sreejesh in first Test of the five-match series at the floodlit Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.

From the onset, it seemed that the instructions were quite clear from Nobbs as the Indians went for all out attacking. Nobbs` strategy paid rich dividends in the first half as the home team created more chances than their opponents and managed to breach South Africa`s defence on three occasions.

The heartening fact was that all the conversions were field goals. South Africa too created a few opportunities in the first 35 minutes but their forward line lacked intent and purpose. India, on the other hand, played fast hockey and utilised both the flanks to build their attacks.