KARACHI: On a day when their compatriots back home were left stunned by prison sentences handed to three of the country’s leading cricketers, Pakistan’s hockey players pulled off a miracle in Perth when they prevailed over world champions Australia to win a triangular hockey tournament.
Soon after a judge in London ordered prison terms for Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, Pakistan prevailed over Aussies 4-3 in a pulsating final to end their tour Down Under on a victorious note.
It was like a battle between David and Goliath as Australia, the world’s number one team, were expected to just crush the Greenshirts — ranked ninth in the world — the way they did in a 8-2 triumph over Pakistan in a league match of the three-nation event earlier this week.
Pakistan, looking for an elusive win over the Aussies, played with a lot of aggression and managed to capitalise on their scoring chances to record their biggest win on the hockey field this year.
It was Sohail Abbas, the seasoned drag flick expert, who took them 1-0 ahead in the first half. Australia leveled the scores 1-1 before a short corner strike from Mohammad Imran helped Pakistan end the first session with a 2-1 lead.
The Aussies earned an equaliser soon after the breather but Mohammad Touseeq and skipper Shakeel Abbasi struck goals in quick succession to give Pakistan a stunning 4-2 lead to the disbelief of a sizeable crowd that was expecting an easy win for the home team.
Australia stepped up on the gas to make a comeback in the match but could only manage to add one goal to their tally just three minutes from the final whistle.
Pakistan’s players and officials were over the moon after conquering the Aussies in their own backyard.
“It’s a major victory for our team,” Khawaja Junaid, the Pakistan manager, told ‘The News’ from Perth. “The one thing that really fuelled our players was the belief that in spite of being the world’s best team, Australia are beatable. And today we have proved that.”
Junaid said that the team’s officials had told the players to go all out for a win in what was their last match of the tour.
“We told the boys that the pressure was on Australia because they were overwhelming favourites to win the final. We told them that you have nothing to lose. The boys responded positively and gave their best today to win the final.”
Junaid believed that a win against Australia is a huge confidence booster for the Pakistanis, who will be featuring in next monthís Champions Trophy in New Zealand and more importantly in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
“We are ranked at number nine in the world but will be featuring in two of most prestigious tournaments in international hockey. The win against Australia will help our boys to give their best in the Champions Trophy and the Olympics.”
Thursday’s triumph against Australia was Pakistan’s first win in the tournament in which they were beaten twice by the hosts. Pakistan also played out two draws against old rivals India — the third team in the event — before making the cut for the final because of a better goal difference.