Adelaide, Dec 3 (PTI): India made a promising start by taking a first-half lead but its defence fell apart later as the team lost the fourth hockey Test 1-5 to Australia and conceded an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series, here on Saturday.
The final match of the series will be played on Sunday. India had won the third match after losing the first two contests.
Comeback man Dilpreet Singh (25th) struck early to give India the lead after a resolute defensive display by Harmanpreet and Co. in a goalless first quarter.
But India’s defence crumbled towards the fag end of second quarter with Jeremy Hayward (29th) and Jake Whetton (30th) scoring in space of 50 seconds. Tom Wickham (34th) extended the Kookaburras lead, before Hayward completed his brace (41st) .
Matt Dawson entered the scoresheet in the 54th minute with a low volley strike that went past Krishan Pathak.
Pathak, who came in place of the seasoned Sreejesh, however made some creditable saves to save India from more humiliation.
On a sultry afternoon, the hosts fired in all cylinders with Harvey creating some splendid raids from the midfield.
But the world No. 1 team struggled to breach a resolute Indian defence, which was held firmly by Sreejesh during a goalless first quarter.
Pathak came out with flying colours and made a splendid save in the second quarter to keep Nathan Ephraums at bay.
It seemed India could level the series when Dilpreet struck a brilliant goal to hand them the lead against the run of play.
From the top of striking circle, Dilpreet quickly pierced the defence and made a sharp turn before smashing it into the bottom corner.
But India’s lead lasted for about less than five minutes with player-of-the-match Hayward bringing up the equaliser with a superbly placed drag-flick.
He dragged the ball long before despatching it to the top right corner at a lightning fast speed as it went past Pathak before he could react.
From being 0-1 down, the world number one went 2-1 up in the blink of an eye when Whetton struck off a Jack Welch assist, showing his poaching skill.
After getting the ball, he split the defence from the top of the D, surged in before his incredible strike.
It seemed to be the turning point as Indian defence soon went on to lose their speed and energy with the home side piling more pressure.
Wickham was second time lucky after his first attempt was thwarted from close range. The shot looked to have been saved by Sreejesh but the ball popped up and went into the net to add to India’s misery.
There was no looking back for Australia as they took a commanding 4-1 lead going into the final quarter with Hayward completing his brace.
The likes of Harmanpreet, Hardik Singh and Nilakanta Sharma impressed and created opportunities but were not able to find the target and match their heavyweight rivals.
India struck a last-gasp goal to beat the hosts 4-3 in the third Test here on Wednesday to keep the series alive at 1-2 going into the penultimate Test.
India had narrowly lost the opening Test 4-5, while they succumbed to Blake Govers’ hattrick to go down 4-7 in their next fixture.