HANGZHOU: India’s explosive opening batter Yashasvi Jaiswal smashed seven sixes in a sublime maiden T20I century as India’s men’s team kicked off their Asian Games 2023 campaign with a 23-run victory in the first quarter-final over gutsy Nepal on Tuesday at Zhejiang University of Technology Pingfeng Cricket Field.
With superstars such as Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli at home for the ICC World Cup 2023 beginning on Thursday, the world’s top-ranked Twenty20 team has a second-string squad in Hangzhou for Asian Games 2023.
But it is still formidable, packed with promising youngsters who have excelled in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and a host of players with international experience.
After winning the toss and opting to bat, Jaiswal’s masterful 100, from 49 balls, plus late fireworks from Rinku Singh (37 not out) and Shivam Dube (25 not out) helped India to 202-4.
Nepal had bludgeoned a record 314-3 against minnows Mongolia in the qualifying rounds of the Asian Games 2023, but they could only manage 179-9 in reply, with Avesh Khan and Ravi Bishnoi taking three wickets each.
“They are a good side so we’re not surprised at how they came at us,” said India skipper Ruturaj Gaikwad. “It wasn’t our best day but we still managed to get a win.”
Cricket has been played at the Asian Games twice before, at Guangzhou 2010 and Incheon 2014, but India did not take part.
Bangladesh won the men’s title in 2010 while Sri Lanka are defending champions, with Afghanistan runners-up both times.
In their debut match at the Asian Games, Jaiswal got India off to a scorching start and they were cruising at 103 without loss at an overcast Zhejiang University of Technology Pingfeng Cricket Field.
But when Gaikwad fell slogging to deep mid-wicket on 25 it sparked a mini-collapse with Tilak Varma (two) and Jitesh Sharma (five) soon following.
At the other end, Jaiswal, who played in the Test and T20I series against the West Indies in July, brought up his maiden century in T20 international cricket off 48 balls, with seven sixes and eight fours.
The 21-year-old’s luck ran out soon after, caught on the ropes by Abinash Bohara going for another big hit.
That brought Kolkata Knight Riders star Rinku to the crease and he slammed 37 off 15 balls in a late flurry that added 64 runs from the last five overs.
“Wherever you go and score a century, especially when you are representing your country, it’s a proud moment and you get goosebumps,” said Jaiswal.
“This is my first T20 century and it’s pretty special.”
A rampant Nepal rewrote cricket history on their way to the quarter-finals in beating Mongolia, becoming the first men’s team to score more than 300 in a T20 international.
But India’s bowling unit was a different proposition.
Nepal were motoring at 62-1 in the eighth over, but the introduction of leg-spinner Bishnoi put the brakes on.
He snared captain Rohit Paudel for three and crucially Kushal Malla — who slammed the fastest-ever T20 international century, off 34 balls, against Mongolia — for 29.
It left Nepal in trouble at 77-4 in the 11th over and while Dipendra Airee (32) and Sundeep Jora (29) did their best, it was not enough.