26 Nov 2010

China closes in on record gold haul at Asian Games

6:38 pm on 26 November 2010

China's red army marched to the brink of a gold medal record at the Asian Games in Guangzhou while an upset victory by a rag-tag cricket team answered prayers in war-torn Afghanistan.

Jubilant Afghan players sank to their knees in prayer after an unlikely 22-run semi-final win over Pakistan ensured at least a silver medal in cricket's debut at the multi-sport event.

China's gold medal juggernaut has eased off with the gradual winding up of table tennis, badminton and gymnastics competitions but the hosts still managed to pick up titles in boxing, diving and kayaking.

They remain two shy of their record haul of 183 at the 1990 Games in Beijing with two days of competition left. South Korea are a distant second with 72 golds.

Afghanistan's victory over last year's Twenty20 world champions ensured legions of fans back home will crowd around television sets on Friday in the hope the fairytale can continue during the gold medal match against Bangladesh.

It was not all gloom for the Pakistan delegation, however, after their men's hockey team ground out a 2-0 win over Malaysia to clinch their first gold in 20 years and book a berth at the 2012 London Olympics.

The hockey and squash titles trebled Pakistan's gold medal count to three while China's women's basketball team picked up the host's 181st in the final event on day 13 of competition by defeating South Korea 70-64.

Double Olympic champion wrestler Artur Taymazov restored some pride for Uzbekistan, whose delegation has been embarrassed by bringing the only two drug cheats caught at the Asian Games.

The imperious 31-year-old overpowered Mongolia's Chuluunbat Jargalsaikhan 15-nil to make it three straight golds in the heavyweight 120 kg category.