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Indian women clinch historic gold in Badminton Asia Team Championships

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Shah Alam (Malaysia), Feb 18 (PTI) Anmol Kharb yet again performed when it mattered, winning the decisive fifth rubber to lead Indian women to a historic Badminton Asia Team Championships title with a tight 3-2 victory over a depleted Thailand, here Sunday.

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The young sprightly group of Indian women's team, led by seasoned PV Sindhu, defied all expectations to come up trumps against two-time bronze medallists Thailand.

It is first-ever major title for Indian women in Team championships and provides a big boost to the team ahead of the Uber Cup, which is set to be held in Chengdu, China from April 28 to May 5.

India had won two medals in the past with the men's team claiming bronze medals in the 2016 and 2020 editions.

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"It is a great moment for Indian badminton. I give a lot of credit to these youngsters. They displayed great spirit, they were supporting each other and the atmosphere was just like it was when India won the Thomas Cup. So this is a special moment for India," former India coach Vimal Kumar told PTI.

Though like most of the teams in the competition, Thailand were not at full strength, but they still had higher-ranked players in their side.

Thailand were without their top two singles players -- world No. 13 Ratchanok Intanon and Pornpawee Chochuwong, who is ranked 16th in the world.

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Two-time Olympic medallist Sindhu, who is returning to action after a four-month injury-forced break, provided India a confident start.

The former world champion was back to her aggressive best as she rode on her power and placement to outclass world number 17 Supanida Katethong 21-12 21-12 in the first singles and hand India a 1-0 lead.

World No. 23 Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand continued their splendid run, dishing out another gritty performance to shock world number 10 pair of Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Pra Jongjai 21-16 18-21 21-16 to put India in the driver's seat.

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Playing the second singles against world ranked 18 Busanan Ongbamrungphan, expectations were high from Ashmita Chaliha after her stunning win against former world champion Nozomi Okuhara on Saturday.

The Indian, who had defeated Busanan during the Singapore Open in 2022, stayed in the match till 14-14 in the second game but a string of unforced errors thereafter cost Ashmita dearly as she went down 11-21 14-21 against her experienced rival.

It was going to be a tall task for young Shruti Mishra and Priya Konjengbam, the senior national champions, to tame world number 13 combination of Benyapa Aimsaard and Nuntakarn Aimsaard and the world number 107 Indian duo expectedly lost 11-21 9-21 in just 29 minutes.

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The tie evenly poised at 2-2, Anmol again shouldered the responsibility of taking India through and she did that with a dominating 21-14 21-9 victory over world number 45 Pornpicha Choeikeewong in the deciding third singles.

Soon after the win, the entire squad got into a huddle to lift Anmol, celebrating the magnificent win at the Setia City Convention Center.

Sindhu vs Supanida ============ Sindhu opened a 5-1 lead after Supanida struggled with her control in drifty conditions, committing too many unforced errors.

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A powerful smash on Supanida's forehand gave Sindhu a 8-2 lead as she kept dictating the terms, moving to a massive 11-4 advantage at the break.

Sindhu played at a good pace and was also far more polished at the net. Soon she was 18-9 up with another lethal jump smash and pocketed the game after her opponent sprayed into the net a couple of times.

After the change of sides, Sindhu kept hitting the returns at deep corners, making her opponent move back and froth. Supanida continued to make errors as the Indian jumped from 2-2 to 9-2 before entering the break at 11-5.

Sindhu kept the pressure on Supanida, producing some beautiful cross court smashes. The Thai tried to stay in the rallies but just couldn't stop the errors as the Indian was up 18-6.

Two diagonal returns gave Sindhu nine match points and she converted on the second chance.

Anmol vs Pornpicha ============ Playing the decider for the third time in the competition, Anmol recovered from a 3-6 deficit to grab a slender 11-10 advantage at the break.

Anmol's ability to patiently construct the rallies and produce winners helped her as she lead 17-13 at one stage.

The Indian made her opponent twist and turn with her angled returns to gain six game points and sealed it comfortably when Pornpicha sprayed into the net.

Anmol continued in the same vein in the second game, moving from 6-5 to 11-5 in a jiffy.

A series of down-the-line smashes took Anmol one point away from win. She grabbed 12 match points with another precise return which touched the net tape and then the Thai went long again as it was all over. PTI ATK AT AT

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