By Naushad Amit
Two potential gold medals were thrown away in team events while swimming sensation Matthew Abeysinghe went on to add more gold medals to his tally on the penultimate day of the 13th South Asian Games in Kathmandu, Nepal today (09).
Abeysinghe bagged gold medals in the Men’s 200m Individual Medley, Men’s 50m Butterfly and the Men’s 100m Freestyle events to claim a total of seven gold medals. He equals his own record set in 2006, by winning seven gold medals, to erase the record of six gold medals claimed by a Sri Lankan athlete at a South Asian Games.
The Sri Lanka Men’s basketball team defeated Bangladesh 72-53 in the semi-final and will feature in the gold medal match at 1.00pm tomorrow. In the two gold medal finals, that could have ended in favour of Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Under-23 Men’s cricket team and the women’s 3x3 team virtually played two gave-away games.
Meanwhile in Kabaddi, for the first time in history Sri Lanka were able to win medals at a South Asian Game. The Men’s team claimed a silver medal after losing India in the final, while the Women’s team claimed the bronze medal.
The Women’s 3x3 Basketball gold medal final, held at the Covered Hall, of the Dasarath Stadium in Kathmandu, India beat Sri Lanka 15-12 to snatch the ultimate prize, as Sri Lanka had to settle in with the silver medal. India led the first phase 8-4 and the second phase 12-10, but the Sri Lanka lasses held the dominance of the game, while missing out potential shots that could have turned into points.
But the tiring women cagers were cleverly countered by the Indian women, who mostly conceded chances to their opponents through fouls. Yet Sri Lanka failed to gain from them beside a few. Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh 18-11 to win the Men’s 3x3 Basketball bronze medal, in the third place playoff played prior to the Women’s 3x3 final.
In the second giveaway, the Sri Lanka Under-23 Men’s team followed the footsteps of their Women’s side by throwing away the final gold medal match, despite reaching the final as an unbeaten side. On Sunday, Sri Lanka Under-23s comprehensively beat Bangladesh Under-23s by 9 wickets, but today the game was a total contrast.
In the crucial gold medal game, Bangladesh recorded a comfortable 7-wicket win with 11 deliveries to spare and walk out winners. Sri Lanka was bowled out for 122 while Bangladesh comfortably managed to score 125 losing just three wickets.
Bangladesh came into the final with many changes to the side they lost to Sri Lanka a day earlier, perhaps with a plan to snatch the gold medal from their opponents. It was what exactly they after winning the toss and putting Sri Lanka into bat first on a clay pitch that goes dead as the game progresses.
Sri Lanka were sailing smooth until they lost opener Nishan Madushka at 36, and the parade of wickets followed as Lasith Croospulle, Kamindu Mendis, Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka, Ashen Bandara and Jehan Daniel were sent back by their Bangladeshi side quite quickly than expected. Sri Lanka were seven men down at 87, until Sammu Ashan came into the middle to display his usual spark, with a knock of 20-ball 25 inclusive of three boundaries. But his contribution came to an end when he was ruled out caught behind by Mahidul Islam off Hasan Mahmud, to a delivery that never nicked his bat.
Mahmud, who went on to strike with three scalps, was named the player of the final as Tanvir Islam picked two wickets.
Bangladesh too made a steady start before losing their opener Soumya Sarkar at 44, but they made sure to stick by their plan and see the team finish off as winners. Sri Lanka managed to just claim three Bangladeshi wickets, in which allrounder Ashen Bandara was involved as the catcher who put Sarkar’s knock of 27 an end with a brilliant catch at mid-off to a delivery sent by Kamindu Mendis, and running out opener Saif Hassan brilliantly when he was looking dangerous.
Yet Bangladesh batted cautiously to see the game end in their favour as theh Sri Lanka players were forced to wear the silver medal around their necks. Kamindu Mendis won the award for the player of the series, for his brilliance with the bat and the ball, which included a knock of 134 not out and a five wicket haul, throughout the series. The 13th South Asian Games will end today with a colourful closing ceremony.
Sri Lanka U-23 - 122 all out in 20 overs (Pathum Nissanka 22, Nishan Madushka 16, Charith Asalanka 12, Sammu Ashan 25, Hasan Mahmud 3/20, Tanvir Islam 2/28).
Bangladesh U-23 - 125 for 3 in 18.1 overs (Saif Hassan 33, Soumya Sarkar 27, Najmul Hossain 35, Yasir Ali 19).