India's mixed badminton team clinches maiden CWG gold

AUSTRALIA / Gold Coast:

India's mixed badminton team put up a commanding show to clinch its maiden gold medal, defeating three-time defending champions Malaysia 3-1 in the final of the event at the 21st Commonwealth Games (CWG) here on Monday.

World No.2 men's singles star Kidambi Srikanth, 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal and the mixed doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa all won a match each to power India past Lee Chong Wei-spearheaded Malaysia which was winning gold since the 2006 CWG.

India's gold medal match began on a strong note, with Satwik and Ashwini defeating Liu Ying Goh and Peng Soon Chan 21-14, 15-21, 21-15 in an hour and five minutes to make it 1-0. It was a crucial win considering Malaysia possess strong doubles pairs. Ashwini's smart net-game coupled with Satwik's firepower enabled the pair to a superb win.

World No.2 Srikanth shone bright with a 21-17, 21-14 win over veteran Chong Wei in 43 minutes to hand India a 2-0 lead.

It was Srikanth's first win in five matches against the world No.6 Malaysian, who has grabbed runners-up medals three times each in the Olympics and the World Championships.

Chong Wei, 35, lacked the sharpness, especially in defence as SriKanth attacked to his forehand, keeping the veteran under pressure. In the first game, the Indian had a 14-10 advantage but Chong Wei kept coming back but Srikanth pullled through towards the end to win 21-17.

Chong Wei's poor defence, couple with his poor line judgments added to his fall in the second game as Srikanth raced to an 11-5 lead. Afterwards it was just a matter of time for Srikanth to seal the win -- which he did with a 21-14 win in the second game, propelling India to a 2-0 cushion.

India's men's doubles contest, the pair of Satwik and Chirag Shetty lost to Olympic silver medal-winning pair of V. Shem Goh and Tan Wee Kiong 15-21, 20-22 in 38 minutes as Malaysia kept the tie alive.

It was from the ouset that teenagers Satwik and Chirag punched above their weights against one of the best pair in world badminton.

In the first game, Satwik-Chirag took a 5-2 lead but the experienced Malaysian clawed back 5-5. Thereafter, the Malaysian showed theior experienced in keeping the Indians at bay as they won 21-15.

The young Indian pair fought valiantly in the second game, opening up a 5-1 lead. At the midgame break, they led 11-7. After the small interval, Goh-Kiong recharged their batteries and erased the deficit at the 17-point mark.

The see-saw battle continued as Indian pair equalised 20-all before losing 20-22, as the tie went to the fourth match.

In the fourth match, world No.12 and two-time World Championships medallist Saina Nehwal brought her experience to the fore as she got past world No.29 Soniia Cheah 21-11, 19-21, 21-9 in an hour and five minutes. The win sealed the issue for India, which failed to return with a medal in this category from the 2014 Glasgow CWG.

After Saina's 21-11 opening-game win -- riding on an 11-point consecutive run, it was quite incredible the way Soniia fought back in the second game. She matched strokes-for-strokes with a determined Saina. 

In fact Saina also forced her way back in after Soniia went on to enjoy advantages at various moments by two or three points.

In the third game, Saina got a 12 straight points after equalising at the nine-point mark, forcing an under-pressure Soniia to make several unforced errors to win the game, thereby the championship.