The Sri Lankan Men’s team clinched gold in cricket in the Asian Games 2014, by beating Afghanistan by 68 runs today. The final was played between Sri Lanka, who won the semifinal against Bangladesh through a toss, after the game was washed off, and Afghanistan, who beat Hong Kong in the other semifinal by 8 wickets.
Sri Lankan skipper Lahiru Thirimanne won the toss and elected to bat first on a slow tacky wicket that had been worn down by the many matches played in the Asian Games. There was a large gathering of crowd, mostly Sri Lankan in the stadium to witness the final. More than 1000 fans thronged the stadium with both Afghan and Sri Lankan flags, vouching for the reach cricket has even in the remotest part like South Korea in the cricketing map.
Dinesh Chandimal opened the innings together with Upul Tharanga but the pair could only add 7 runs for the first wicket as Upul Tharanga was out caught behind off the bowling of Nasim Baras. The Sri Lankan captain then joined Chandimal to build a counter attacking partnership that deposited the Afghan bowling to all parts of the ground. The pair added 72 runs for the second wicket before Chandimal top edged a slog to mid-off. Thirimanne, however persisted with his nonchalant hitting, scoring 57 off just 37 balls.
Afghan bowlers, who were piped to the post by the 2nd wicket pair, clawed their way back by bogging down the Sri Lankan batting with accurate slow bowling. Sri Lanka who were 78 for 1 at the end of the 10th over stumbled to be all out for 133 runs within 20 overs. Mohammed Nabi, who troubled the Sri Lankan batting lineup, picked up four wickets for 18 runs in 3.1 overs.
Chasing 134 for a Gold medal, Afghan batting got off to a decent start with opener Najib Taraki scoring 16 runs but Isuru Udana, the Sri Lankan left-arm pacer struck twice in the 4th over, to peg back any momentum the Afghans had gained through their bowling. Chathuranga De SIlva at the other end strangled the batsmen with his slow left-armers and at the end of the batting power play, Afghanistan were 3 down for just 21 runs.
Afghanistan’s hopes of a comeback were dashed by Jeevan Mendis who bamboozled the batsmen with his canny leg-spinners and googlies, ending up with figures of 3 for 13 runs in 4 overs. Alankara Asanka also picked up a wicket with his tight off-spinners before Qaseem Khan sliced Chathuranga De SIlva to backward point where the fielder took a good diving catch bringing the match to an end.
The Sri Lankan fans rushed to into the middle climbing over barriers and escorted the gold medal winners to the pavilion. Chandimal was carried on shoulders by the Lankan contingent, bringing in memories of the cricket matches in the 80s.
This was Sri Lanka’s first Gold medal in cricket and Afghanistan settled for a silver for the second successive time in the Asian Games. This medal was the second medal and first gold medal Sri Lanka won in this year’s Asian Games. Earlier Sri Lankan women’s team bagged a bronze in the same sport.
The Gold medal now takes Sri Lanka to the position of 26th in the medal table, having won a gold and a bronze.
Sri Lanka 133 all out in 19.1 overs (Thirmanne 57*, Chandimal 33; Nabi 4/18)
Afghanistan 65 all out in 17.4 overs (Tarakai 17, Qaseem Khan 12; Jeevan Mendis 3/13)
by 68 runs.