Hangzhou, China: India crushed Bangladesh by nine wickets on Friday to set up a gold medal match against Afghanistan as they bid to become Asian Games champions on their first attempt.
India’s young — but still formidable — side made light work of a rattled Bangladesh in the Hangzhou semi-finals but could face stiffer resistance in Saturday’s title-decider.
Afghanistan boast a handful of quality players, who came good when it mattered to beat Pakistan by four wickets in the other last-four encounter.
Twenty20 cricket has been played at the Asian Games twice before, at Guangzhou 2010 and Incheon 2014, with Bangladesh and then Sri Lanka crowned champions.
Afghanistan were runners-up both times, but India did not take part.
“This gives us a lot of confidence because we came together and played as a team,” said India bowling hero Sai Kishore, who snared 3-12.
“If we play to our best potential I think we have a good chance to win the final.”
On an overcast day at the Zhejiang University of Technology Pingfeng Cricket Field, India won the toss and chose to field on a pitch that has been susceptible to spin.
It proved so again, with Bangladesh stumbling to just 96-9.
While Bangladesh struggled, India made it look easy, steaming to their target in 9.2 overs for the loss of one wicket. Tilak Varma was 55 not out and skipper Ruturaj Gaikwad unbeaten on 40.
Their chase got off to a horror start with quarter-final century-maker Yashasvi Jaiswal out for a duck in the first over, caught at fine leg.
But fellow opener Gaikwad seized control, plundering 20 from the third over including two consecutive sixes off paceman Ripon Mondol.
Varma got in on the act in the next over, also crashing straight sixes, this time off Mrittunjoy Chowdhury, as they raced to 50-1.
“They batted really well and we could have bowled better. We just didn’t get enough runs on the board,” said Bangladesh captain Saif Hassan, whose side faces Pakistan for the consolation of bronze.
Spinners do the damage
Bangladesh found runs hard to come by, with India getting the breakthrough in the fifth over when Mahmudul Hasan Joy holed out to mid-on off Kishore for five.
Most of India’s big names are at home for the one-day World Cup, but they do have spinner Washington Sundar, who has played all three formats for his country.
His tricky offbreaks then accounted for skipper Hassan and Zakir Hasan in the space of three balls.
Opener Parvez Hossain Emon made 23 but he too succumbed to spin, this time to Varma, as Bangladesh crawled to 36-4.
Kishore returned to bag Afif Hossain and Shahadat Hossain.
Pakistan skittled for 115
In the other match, Afghanistan skittled Pakistan for 115 after putting them in to bat, with Fareed Ahmad snapping up three wickets and spinners Qais Ahmad and Zahir Khan two apiece.
Afghanistan smacked two boundaries in the first over of the chase, but lost focus and slumped to 35-3.
Noor Ali Zadran kept his cool to steady the ship with 39 but when he and Afsar Zazai fell within three balls, it was game on at 71-5 in the 13th over.
But they battled to within 23 runs with 18 balls left, and got them all in one wayward over from Aamer Jamal, with skipper Gulbadin Naib doing the damage with a heroic 26.