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 August 2, 2002 | 1645 IST

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India hoping to clinch gold in women's hockey

Fresh from two dramatic victories against stronger opponents, India will be hoping to keep the momentum going when they clash with England in the women's hockey final of the 17th Commonwealth Games on Saturday.

The Indian eves, who staged a remarkable comeback to bring themselves within sniffing distance of the coveted gold medal after almost being out of the championship, will have their task cut out against the hosts in what promises to be an exciting contest of skill and nerves at the Belle Vue Regional Hockey Centre.

The Indians had finished third in pool-B but the two victories against South Africa and title aspirants New Zealand had assured them a medal for the first time in the history of the Games.

But the Indians, despite their fine showing in the last two matches, can hardly afford to be complacent against the hosts who sent the reigning champions Australia packing with a 2-1 victory in the semi-finals.

The poor ratio of penalty corner conversions notwithstanding, the Indians would go onto the field with confidence and the pressure no doubt will be on the home team.

England will have the advantage of playing in front of a home crowd but the Indians, who have reached the final for the first time, will leave no stone unturned to clinch their first-ever gold medal in the event.

The Indian eves began their campaign with a solitary goal win against Canada but lost to New Zealand 1-3 in their second group league match.

The 1-1 draw against England in their last group encounter gave them the third position in pool-B but things began to change remarkably from the play-off stage.

In one of the best comebacks in Commonwealth Games history, the Indians fought back from a three-gold deficit to stun South Africa 4-3 via golden goal to romp into the last four.

The Indians displayed the same fighting spirit against the Kiwis in the semis as they conceded an early goal but tilted the scale in their favour with a 2-1 verdict despite inclement weather and some controversial umpiring decisions.

But the final will be a different game and the Indians will have to raise their game level a few notches more if they hope to win the gold medal.

The Indians, who have never been known for their consistency, will have to improve upon their penalty corner conversion ratio since that is a vital department in modern hockey. The defenders also need to tighten their game to keep the strong English forwards at bay.

The hard-working Jyoti Kullu, Mamata Kharab, Suman Bala, Sita Gossain, Pritam Siwach and Amandeep Kaur have been quite impressive right through the championship and coach Gurdial Singh Bhangu will be hoping his girls deliver the goods when it matters most.