Pakistan face top-ranked Australia after NZ series win

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LAHORE, Mar 25: After winning the five test series in  New Zealand, Pakistan hockey team has arrived in Australia for a 4 test series on Saturday.

In New Zealand, the 14th ranked Pakistan came from behind to win the series 2-1, with two matches ending in a draw.

The hosts stand 8th in the FIH rankings, said the information available to APP here.

First three tests were live streamed and the gradual improvement was there to be seen.

After losing the first test 3-4, Pakistan drew the next 2-2 and then outclassed the opponents 4-2 in the third.

The green shirts went ahead in the series with a 2-1 win in the fourth test and managed to hold the black sticks 1-1 in the last test.

Pakistan side for this tour is without many senior players  including  Fareed (Pakistan’s captain in their last international appearance at the Asian Champions Trophy), Rizwan Sr, Rashid, Mohammad Irfan Sr (another former national captain) and Tauseeq.

Four players wore the senior national shirts for the first time: Abubakr Mahmood, Atif Mushtaq, Tazeemul Hassan and Umair Sarfraz.

Of them, Abubakr emerged as a surprise package. In his very first outing, he converted a penalty corner in the second test.

The next test proved to be the turning point in the series and Abubakr was Pakistan’s hero with a hat-trick off penalty corner goals.

Skipper Haseem Khan distinguished himself with a number of crucial goals especially in the latter part of the series. Goal Keeper Amjad also performed outstandingly. But it was a wonderful team performance throughout.

Admittedly, bilateral series are mainly to blood new talent and try various combinations. But these days, with all the top sides having business houses as their sponsors, the results are also important.

Hockey New Zealand has a partnership with Vantage Windows & Doors as the naming rights sponsor. Hence it was Vantage Black Sticks vs Pakistan.

Importantly, it would do a lot of good for the morale of the Pakistan team.

Now, they should face Australia, world’s top team, with greater confidence. All the four tests in Australia are scheduled to be played at Marrara Hockey Centre in Darwin on March 28, 29, 31 and April 1.

Australian coach, the former great Coln Batch, means business,”I believe the team we have selected will be able to show Darwin just why they are ranked number 1 in the world when they take on Pakistani in the four game test.”

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