The local volunteers did their best to keep the crowd entertained through the light rains for over 20 minutes, but when it picked up in intensity, the supporters started to make their way inside to find cover.
An hour later, the men’s cricket final here at the Pingfeng Cricket Campus on Saturday was called off, robbing the fans of a finish, and Afghanistan a chance to fight for a rare Asian Games gold medal.
India, which didn’t have to bat in the game, was awarded the win and the gold because of its higher seeding in the tournament.
AT IT HAPPENED: India vs Afghanistan Asian Games 2023 final highlights
The Indian team then came out and celebrated in the rain in what was a unique tournament experience for everyone involved. India barely put a foot wrong in the three matches it took part in and Ruturaj Gaikwad’s men looked primed for the top prize.
“We are not used to winning medals. We are all very emotional,” said India skipper Ruturaj Gaikwad after the medal ceremony. It was disappointing not to have the full game but that’s something we can’t control,” he said.
Afghanistan, which has had a solid outing itself, would feel hard done by after it recovered from an early collapse to post 112/5 in 18.2 overs.
“I am very proud of the silver. It’s our first silver for Afghanistan. This is everything for me,” said Afghanistan skipper Gulbadin Naib.
The final began under the lights after the scheduled start was delayed by a brief shower spell.
The prospect of rains being around the corner, which had a big say in the outcome of the bronze medal match earlier in the day, on an overcast afternoon might have prompted Ruturaj to choose to bowl first at the toss.
The pitch aided bounce and India, with its four tall bowlers Arshdeep Singh, Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar and R. Sai Kishore, came to the fore in the batting PowerPlay. The Afghanistan openers, Mohammad Shahzad and Zubaid Akbari, were both done in by the extra bounce on the surface.
Akbari looked to go over mid-on to a length delivery from Dube but his mistimed shot couldn’t clear Arshdeep, who completed the catch. Arshdeep then had some stroke of luck when the umpire adjudged Shahzad to be caught behind when the ball took a deviation of his shoulders, looking to evade a short ball directed at him.
Noor Ali Zadran was the next batter to be dismissed but he made his own bad luck with a poor call for a second run when Ravi Bishnoi had already picked up the ball at the fine leg boundary.
Jitesh Sharma collected Bishnoi’s one bounce throw over the stumps, before whipping off the bails to catch Zadran short and reduce Afghanistan to 12/3.
Washington and Kishore were brought on once again after the third over, with both spinners being able to extract bounce with their height, making it difficult for the Afghan batters to read off the pitch.
Bishnoi was the pick of the Indian bowlers with Afghanistan struggling to pick his googlies zipped in through the pitch. Having narrowly missed the stumps of Afsar Zazai early on, the leggie bamboozled the batter to castle him with another wrong turn.
He finished his spell with 4-0-12-1. Shahbaz Ahmed then cleaned up Karim Janat by drawing the batter out to play for the spin but ended up going through his defence.
With dark clouds beginning to set in over the field, it was Shahidullah Kamal (49 off 43 balls) and skipper Gulbadin (27 off 24), who put together a crucial 60-run stand to halt Afghanistan’s slide and take it past 100
Shahidullah climbed on anything in the slot or short of length from Shahbaz or Kishore.
Gulbadin then got into the act when he deposited Kishore over long on for a six before Shahidullah thumped an Arshdeep full toss over deep midwicket.
With the two set batters looking set for a final flourish towards the end, the rains returned before 4 p.m., with both sets of teams being led off the pitch.
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