Captain Diwakar Ram slammed four goals, including two late strikes, to help India eke out a 5-5 draw against Malaysia in an inconsequential final league match of the men's hockey event in the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney on Saturday.
In a high-scoring crowd stunner at the Hockey Centre, Sydney Olympic Park, Diwakar converted four penalty-corners to save the day for the Indians.
The two sides were level 3-3 at the interval, with Diwakar contributing two goals for India till then. He then converted two penalty-corners in the final nine minutes after his side was down 3-5 till the 61st minute.
The Indian colts will now take on Australia, whom they defeated in their earlier league encounter, in the summit clash on Sunday.
In the girls' event, India at last registered their first victory of the tournament, beating USA 2-0, though the result came too late as the eves were already out of contention for the summit clash after losing their first two matches.
They will be up against the same opponents, USA, in the bronze medal match.
In the pulsating boys' encounter, Malaysia shocked India in the early stages of the match when Abdul Gaffar found the net in the seventh minute from a penalty-corner.
Stung by the early goal, India came out all guns blazing and found the equaliser from Jay Karan's stick two minutes later and then Diwakar doubled the lead in the 19th minute.
However, Ahmad Tajuddin helped Malaysia level the scoreline in the 21st minute only to see the India skipper regain the lead three minutes later.
But Gaffar struck again for Malaysia in the 33rd minute to see both the teams go into the breather locked at 3-3.
Malaysia surprised the crowd with two quick goals in the opening minutes after the change of ends to make the score 5-3.
Down by two goals, India regrouped themselves and launched all out attack on the Malaysian goal but with little esult till the 61st minute when Diwakar sounded the board with a fiery drag-flick which the Malaysian custodian had no answer.
In the final minutes, Diwakar produced another gem of a drag-flick to find the all-important equaliser and save India from humiliation.
Although he was not disappointed with the result, coach A K Bansal admitted his wards were little complacent knowing that they had already made it to the final.
"It was not a tough match, but the boys made it tough as they were complacent. I had initially planned Diwakar won't take a single penalty-corner today but was forced to change the plan looking at the scoreline," Bansal said.
Asked what strategy he would implement against Australia in the final, he said, "The boys are playing very well but against Australia we have to play fast hockey from the beginning.
"Penalty-corner is our strong point but tomorrow our forwards have to play well and put pressure on the Australians from the word go."
In the inconsequential women's encounter between India and USA, Anuradha Thokchom (56th minute) and Rani Ritu Tindal (69th) scored for India to give them their first points in the four-nation tournament.
Although the Indian eves displayed strong ball skills and coordination, it was the American girls who were hungry for possession, which they maintained throughout the game.