India 202 for 4 (Jaiswal 100, Rinku 37*, Airee 2-31) beat Nepal 179 for 9 (Airee 32, Jora 29, Avesh 3-32, Bishnoi 3-24) by 23 runs
Yashasvi Jaiswal has had a memorable 2023 already. In May, he smashed the fastest half-century in the IPL off just 13 balls. In July, his old-school 171 in Dominica, which lasted 501 minutes and 387 balls, was the longest by an Indian Test debutant. Two months on, in Hangzhou, at a ground that may have reminded him of the Mumbai maidans in terms of dimensions, he became the youngest Indian to smash a T20I century as India entered the semi-finals of the men's competition at the Asian Games by getting the better of Nepal by 23 runs.
Jaiswal's onslaught was an exhibition of skilled hitting, not mindless slogging, as he made exactly 100 in 49 balls. The knock that contained eight fours and seven sixes was a key driver to India's 202 for 4. They looked like getting a lot more, but suffered a middle-overs collapse before Rinku Singh's sixes gave the finishing kick.
Nepal proved they were no pushovers with a late cameo from Sundeep Jora bringing the equation down to 56 off 24. At this point, they'd hit more sixes (12) than fours (nine), but in looking to keep going, they kept losing wickets.
A little more support from one of the top order batters may have helped them pull off a massive upset. That they were stymied was largely down to Ravi Bishnoi's bag of variations that includes a skiddy googly as a stock ball and a flipper that fizzes through the deck. His 3 for 24 through those middle overs made the task steep for Nepal. The importance of Bishnoi's spell was amplified even more after the fast bowlers took a beating; their combined figures read 11-0-112-5.
Nepal eventually ended with 179 for 9, bowing out with a creditable performance to culminate a dream run that took them to the World Cup Qualifiers, Asia Cup and now the Asian Games.
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Gaikwad fights, Jaiswal flies
India opted to bat and immediately discovered the surface wasn't easy for stroke-making. Deliveries were holding on, there was spongy bounce and batters couldn't waltz through the line. Yet, Jaiswal took the pitch out of the equation - cutting, pulling and muscling monstrous sixes down the ground. When he brought up his fifty off his 22nd delivery, Ruturaj Gaikwad was on 14 off 17, having survived a couple of lbw shouts and looking increasingly edgy to get the release shot. At 96 for 0 in nine overs, India had the platform.
Dipendra Singh Airee has already had a memorable Asian Games as he broke the world record for the fastest T20I fifty against Mongolia. On Tuesday, he picked up Nepal's first wicket when he had Gaikwad picking out the boundary rider in trying to hoick one to deep midwicket. Tilak Varma walked in at No. 3 and struggled to put bat to ball. Rohit Paudel's fast offspin and Sompal Kami's accuracy kept him quiet until he chopped on for 2 off 10 in the 12th over. This was the passage where Nepal were making things happen and India were slightly edgy. This felled Jitesh Sharma too, playing a slightly different role here at No. 4 as against being the death-overs finisher in the IPL. India had suddenly lost 3 for 16 and were being sapped of momentum.
Rinku plays finisher
Shivam Dube kept churning the strike to Jaiswal, who brought up his hundred off 48 deliveries. A scoop that nearly carried all the way had him celebrating the landmark with gusto, only for the umpires to signal a four which meant he needed one more. He nudged the next one into the leg side to quietly celebrate again. One ball later, he was out slicing a full toss from Airee to short third. At 16.2 overs, India were 150 for 3. Rinku, like those who came before him, took a while to get going, but found his hitting range soon after. From 7 off 7, he muscled three sixes and two fours to finish 37 off 15 as India ended with 202 for 4; Dube's contribution a steady 25.
Teary-eyed Sai Kishore makes a mark
On an injury and Covid-ravaged tour with a second-string squad to Sri Lanka in 2021, R Sai Kishore came within a hair's breadth of an India cap. On Tuesday, he was handed his T20I debut quite deservingly; after all he'd been a key member of Tamil Nadu's recent white-ball domination.
When the national anthem played, Sai Kishore couldn't hold back his tears, but with the ball in hand, he bowled with the experience of a veteran. He cleverly varied his pace and angles from around the wicket to deny Kushal Bhurtel and Kushal Malla. His first two overs cost just eight, and in his third, he had his maiden T20I wicket when Bhurtel, who was living quite dangerously, picked out short fine leg in trying to scoop a delivery that didn't have enough pace. Over the next couple of overs, Nepal would lose two more to Bishnoi to throw the innings into a freefall.
Airee, Jora give Nepal hope
Even as India's spinners had the wood over the batters, the seamers kept spraying the ball around. Airee took Dube to the cleaners for a sequence of 0,6,6,6,2,1 in the 14th over to ignite Nepal's hopes of a heist. They needed 83 off six overs with six wickets in hand. But Bishnoi had Airee dragging a length ball that bounced a bit more than he anticipated, to long-on. When Jora fell for a 12-ball 29 in the next, you sensed the game was all but done. The lower order then had some fun as Arshdeep and Avesh lost their lengths, but by then it was only a question of how close Nepal would come.