Pakistan opened their 2013 Azlan Shah Cup campaign with a win over defending champions New Zealand, edging them 4-3 on Saturday in Ipoh, Malaysia.
World champion Australia also started off on a winning note with a 4-3 win over India as they aim for their seventh cup title, while host Malaysia defeated South Korea 3-2 in a close match.
Pakistan turned on the flair in the first half to defeat New Zealand in their opening encounter, which was delayed due to a heavy downpour.
It could all have gone wrong for the Pakistanis when they allowed the Kiwis to fight back in the second half and draw level at 3-3.
But skipper Muhammad Imran had other ideas as he scored a hat-trick in the match, including the winner, to get them full points in the six-nation tournament. The other goal came from Abdul Haseem Khan from a field attempt.
New Zealand’s goals came through Kane Russell and then two quick goals by Blair Tarrant and Andy Wayward.
Pakistan chief coach Akhtar Rasool said he felt his team would further improve in the next match as he rebuilds it with four new players.
“Opening matches are always difficult, and we came through with a win,” he said.
New Zealand coach Colin Batch said he was “not disappointed at all” despite the loss.
“The players are learning and their ability to comeback is a plus point,” he said.
The Australians took a 3-0 lead, but then almost allowed the Indians to come back into the match with a sloppy display in the second half. Still, the world number two prevailed with some good last-minute defending.
Matt Gohdes scored a penalty corner and a field goal, while Glenn Simpson was on target with a drag flick from the set piece move. Trent Mitton scored in the 53rd minute.
The Indians hit back with two goals through Rupinder Pal Singh, who later produced another penalty corner goal, and Malak Singh.
Australian coach Ric Charlesworth blasted his players for the sloppy play in the second half.
“Penalty corners are very crucial nowadays,” he said. “We need to look at this aspect and learn from it.”