Afghanistan fall short in final
Bangladesh 119 for 5 (Naeem 34*, Rahman 33*) beat Afghanistan 118 (Stanikzai 38*) by five wickets
Bangladesh's cricketers won their country its first-ever gold medal in the Asian Games by beating Afghanistan in a thrilling final in Guangzhou. In a see-saw match that attracted a crowd of 2000, 19-year-old Shabbir Rahman smashed two sixes in the penultimate over to decisively swing the match Bangladesh's way and dash Afghan hopes of a gold.
A day after upsetting fancied Pakistan in the semi-finals, Afghanistan looked set for a hammering when they slid to 66 for 6 in the 13th over on choosing to bat. Youngsters Asghar Stanikzai (38*) and Shabir Noori (25) then gave Afghanistan's chances a boost with a stabilising stand that left Bangladesh needing 120 for victory.
Bangladesh almost made a mess of what should have been a straightforward chase, losing five wickets, including that of their experienced captain Mohammad Ashraful, for 75. Afghanistan were scenting another famous win but were denied by the pair of allrounder Naeem Islam, who is looking to secure a permanent spot in the Bangladesh side, and Rahman, a legspinner who was part of the squad for this year's Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand. With 19 needed off the final two overs, Bangladesh were the underdogs but they clubbed 17 runs of the 19th over from offspinner Karim Sadiq, who had excellent figures of 2-0-10-2 before that, to transform the game.
"I had a good talk with Naeen before the 19th over and we went for it," Shabbir said. "Luckily, it came good. There was no pressure on me, but I am sure my team-mates in the dressing room were tense."
Ashraful admitted he had given up hope towards the end. "I was feeling a bit low but then Shabbir came and did the job for us," he said. "There was a bit of pressure because Afghanistan are a very good side and this was our first major final."
Cricket has been Bangladesh's most productive sporting discipline at the Asian Games so far - besides the men's gold, they have won silver in the women's competition. They have only one other medal in the Asian Games so far, a bronze in kabaddi.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo