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Santander, Spain - A massive second-half effort was not enough to close the deficit as South Africa narrowly lost out to India in an 11-goal thriller in the first of three unofficial Tests in Santander, Spain, on Sunday evening.
After trailing 3-1 at half time and staring down the barrel, South Africa pulled back four goals in the second half, but just could not do enough as the game ended 6-5 in India's favour.
South Africa welcomed back captain Austin Smith, who recovered from flu earlier in the week.
The Indians drew first blood 12 minutes into the half against the run of play as South Africa dominated possession in the opening exchanges.
South Africa found their rhythm once more as the attacking unit pushed forward in search of the equaliser.
A superb pass five minutes after conceding found Marvin Harper, who looked dangerous throughout, to put South Africa on the front foot through a penalty stroke.
Indian goalkeeper Bharat Chetri had taken Harper's legs out, earning a yellow card in the process for dangerous play with Lloyd Madsen dispatching the penalty past the Indian defender for an easy equaliser.
South Africa’s equaliser was cancelled out 90 seconds later as India turned over possession in the middle of the park and struck South Africa on the counter-attack.
They regained the lead through Dharamvir Singh who went on to score his second of the evening two minutes later after another turn-over ball resulted in a soft third for India, who took their 3-1 lead into the break.
The South Africans came out into the second period determined to push for the equaliser but India's attack kept South Africa under wraps, bagging their fourth in the first minute of the second half.
India camped out in the South African half in the opening minutes after the break, with their fifth goal of the evening coming shortly after but with a fair amount of controversy.
South African keeper Rassie Pieterse plea for what looked like a back-stick shot fell on deaf ears, with umpire Diego Estebanez awarding India their goal.
At 5-1, South Africa looked dead and buried, but a superb fightback sparked by Timothy Drummond in the 43rd minute gave the visitors a boost as they fought tirelessly to close the margin.
Drummond struck a powerful effort into the bottom of the goal, before Ian Haley was set up by striker Lloyd Norris-Jones, who unselfishly laid off to an unmarked Haley, who calmly slotted home.
WIth the margin down to two, South Africa continued to apply pressure, holding onto the ball for long periods and getting themselves into attacking positions behind the Indian lines.
Penalty Corner (PC) specialist Justin Reid-Ross came close in the 54th minute but narrowly missed the goal as he shot over the goal having beaten Chetri.
India, meanwhile, came back into the game through a penalty stroke as an infringement in the South African area lead to their sixth score of the night.
An action-packed finish to the thrilling encounter saw Reid-Ross drilling his second PC effort past Cheri for his side's fourth while they still trailed by two.
With time down to a minute, a further PC lead to skipper Smith rounding-off a brave comeback through a rocketed attempt from a PC which flew into the top-left corner of the Indian goal.
South Africa won the second period 4-3, but were left aggrieved after coming so close in the encounter. - Sapa