India squandered a three-goal lead and were held 3-3 by arch-rivals Pakistan in an ill-tempered match, in the double leg tri-nation hockey tournament in Busselton, Australia, on Friday.
Veteran drag-flicker Sohail Abbas struck twice for Pakistan, in the 46th and 64th minutes, while captain Shakeel Abbasi scored the equaliser at the fag end of the match, after India had taken what seemed an unassailable 3-0 lead at the breather with goals from Tushar Khandekar, Danish Mujtaba and Rupinder Pal Singh.
The match was stopped a minute and 35 seconds before the end of regulation time due to ugly incidents on the field involving players of both teams.
India were clearly the better side in the first half. Immediately after a Danish Mujtaba hit was palmed away by Pakistan goalkeeper Imran Shah, Khandekar put India ahead in the fifth minute. He latched on to a cross from the right and gently tapped home an aerial ball.
This fifth minute setback added venom to Pakistan's attack, but the Indian defence, manned by VR Raghunath and Manjit, and ably assisted by Sardar Singh, withstood the pressure.
Mujtaba then doubled India's lead before Rupinder, who a minute earlier missed a sitter, came good in the 27th minute to see Michael Nobbs's boys go 3-0 up at half-time.
But Pakistan hit back in style in the second half with veteran Abbas scoring twice and then captain Abbasi getting the equalizer just before play was halted.
In the closing stages of the match, a hard tackle by an Indian player resulted in a scuffle between the two teams. The incident forced the match to be stopped for about 30 minutes, and even though the teams returned to the turf later, they agreed not to resume play.
Tournament Director Girhme Napier said it was a fair decision.
This was the last match of the first leg, and the teams now move to Burnbury, 150 kms from Perth, for the second.