NEW DELHI, March 1 (IANS) - The Hockey World Cup got off to a cracker of a start as India outplayed arch-rivals Pakistan 4-1 and England shocked tournament favourites Australia 3-2 in the pool B matches on day one here Sunday.
Earlier, Spain came back from behind to prevail over a spirited South Africa 4-2 in the inaugural game at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.
Holi revelry broke out a day in advance as India played a fast-paced attacking hockey, mesmerising the wildly cheering, near-capacity crowd and opened up a 2-0 lead in the halftime. The hosts then heaped two more in the second session to begin their cup campaign with a bang.
Shivendra Singh opened the scoring for the hosts in the 27th minute before Sandeep Singh (35th, 57th) and Prabhjot Singh (37th) consolidated the lead.
Pakistan's ace penalty corner expert Sohail Abbas pulled one back late in the game (59th), converting their fifth penalty corner, but by then the writing on the wall was already clear in the first World Cup encounter between the two sides in 24 years.
Incidentally, it is the same venue where India had tasted one of their biggest defeat against Pakistan when they lost 1-7 in the Asian Games in 1982.
India's last World Cup win over their subcontinental competitors came 35 years back in Kuala Lumpur when they chalked out a 2-1 victory in the final.
Both teams took a measure of each other before India raided the Pakistan defence time and again, while the home side's defender Bharat Chikara closely marked striker Rehan Butt to blunt the sharpness in the visitors' attacks.
The hosts went ahead in the 25th minute when Pakistan goalkeeper Salman Akbar stopped Sandeep's penalty corner strike, but Shivendra was right in position to score off the rebound, sending the crowd into raptures.
Pakistan tried to regroup and their moves earned a penalty corner. Pakistan though were a shade unlucky as world's top scorer Sohail's powerful hit came off the upright.
It could well be called the game's defining moment as the Indian players realised that luck was on their side and went all out against their opponents.
India's drag flick expert Sandeep made it 2-0 in the last minutes of the first half with a clean penalty corner strike.
India was totally dominating in the second half as Pakistan, which had got better of India in the last three matches, including the Champions Challenge semifinal last year, looked off-colour.
Forward Prabhjot scored the third goal, after the combination of Shivendra and Gurwinder Singh Chadni did the spade work.
Sandeep struck one more through a penalty corner to widen the gulf 4-0, before Abbas finally found the mark with one of his trademark short corner conversions.
Earlier, showing fine marksmanship, England shocked hot favourites Australia 3-2 in the second match of the day.
Australia paid a heavy penalty for missing chances, especially in the first 20 minutes when they were all over their rivals.
After squandering three clear chances, the Aussies went ahead courtsey a fine penalty stroke conversion by their captain Jamie Dwyer (23rd), but their joy was shortlived as Ashley Jackson equalised in the next minute. James Tindall then converted a penalty corner (33rd), as England led 2-1 at the halfway stage.
Changing sides, Tindall again scored (45th), before Dwyer got his second goal of the match, as England registered their second World Cup win over Australia in nine meetings between the two. The English triumph had come 35 years back in Kuala Lumpur.
Much of the credit for England-'s upset victory goes to their midfield, where 29-year-old Ben Hawes, turning out in his 175th international game, was outstanding.
The Spain-South Africa clash saw both teams locked 2-2 in the first half but Spain showed their class after the breather, scoring two more goals to log full points.
South Africa, taking advantage of a defense lapse, opened the scoring with Julian Hykes (16th). Spain struck through Roc Oliva (19th) and Miquel Delas (20th). Ian Haley (30th) drew level for South Africa.
Rodrigo Garza (45th) gave Spain the lead while Pau Quemada (61st) scored through a penalty corner.