Jubilant Bangladesh cricketers saluted their vanquished rivals Afghanistan on Friday by predicting the war-torn nation will soon become a major force in the sport. Bangladesh won their country's first ever Asian Games gold medal by ending Afghanistan's dream run with a thrilling five-wicket win in the inaugural Twenty20 final.
"We are celebrating, but I hope Afghanistan will celebrate too because they deserve the silver medal," said Bangladesh coach Imran Sarwar. "They are a very good side and I am sure they will become a top team in the near future. Their rise has been remarkable."
The Afghan bravehearts fought till the end despite being restricted to 118-8 after batting first. Bangladesh were reduced to 75-5 by the 16th over, before the sixth-wicket pair of Naeem Islam and Mohammad Shabbir put on an unbeaten 44-run partnership to secure a win.
"This was not an easy win at all," said Sarwar. "We expected them to make around 100 or 110, but they went to 118 and then kept us under pressure."
Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi said it was a miracle that cricket had prospered in his war-ravaged nation.
"The war has been going on for three decades, but we have been playing there for the last 10 years despite the lack of proper facilities or grounds," he said. "It is the passion for the game that keeps us going and cricket has caught on back home."