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T20 WC: Afghanistan stun Australia to make semifinal race exciting

Afghanistan scored 148 for 6 in 20 overs before dismissing the former champions for 127 in the final over to register their first-ever victory against the Kangaroos in a senior international encounter.

Gulbadin Naib of Afghanistan celebrates after dismissing Glenn Maxwell of Australia (not pictured) during an ICC Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup Super Eight match at Arnos Vale Ground in St Vincent, Saint Vincent and The Grenadines on June 22, 2024. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

By: India Weekly

GULBADIN NAIB was Afghanistan’s man with the golden arm, bowling his team to a surprise 21-run victory over previously unbeaten Australia in their Group One Super Eight encounter in the T20 World Cup at the Arnos Vale Stadium on Saturday.

Set a target of 149, Glenn Maxwell (59 off 41 balls, six fours, three sixes) had the Test and One-Day champions on course until he became Gulbadin’s third wicket in the 15th over, opening the door to a result which keeps the duel for semi-final spots alive going into the final two fixtures in the group on Monday.

Gulbadin finished with four for 20 from his four overs of medium pace to turn the match as Australia suffered their first-ever defeat to the Afghans in a senior international encounter, being dismissed for 127 with four balls left in the match.

Read: Ruthless India defeat Bangladesh to get closer to T20 WC semifinals

“It is a great moment for me, my nation, my people,” said an exultant Gulbadin on receiving the Man of the Match award. “I learned a lot about the pitch from when we batted and I am glad that (captain) Rashid (Khan) had faith in me.”

Earlier, Pat Cummins claimed his second hat-trick in as many matches as Afghanistan lost momentum after another century opening stand from Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran, settling for a total of 148 for six having been put in.

Read: Buttler positive on England’s chances in T20 World Cup

A top score of 60 off 49 balls (four fours, four sixes) by Gurbaz and 51 off 48 balls (six fours) from Zadran gave the Afghans an excellent platform of 118 – their third century partnership of the tournament – by the 16th over.

But having ridden their luck via half-chances and misfields in gaining the ascendancy, four wickets for eight runs put the innings back in the balance. Marcus Stoinis made the breakthrough and leg-spinner Adam Zampa applied the brakes with two wickets.

Yet it was Cummins, who claimed a hat-trick against Bangladesh against in Antigua on Thursday, who essentially switched off the Afghanistan innings with the wicket of Rashid Khan at the end of the 18th over before adding Karim Janat and eventual hero Gulbadin at the start of the 20th over.

“It was an off night for us in the field and we own that,” conceded Australian captain Mitchell Marsh. “We knew it was a difficult wicket but both teams bowled on it, both teams batted on it and we were simply outplayed by a better team on the night.”

In reflecting on an historic night for his team, Rashid acknowledged the reward of returning to the opening pair of Gurbaz and Zadran.

“It was important to return to the previous playing eleven after we tried a few different things in the last match against India,” he explained. “We had in our minds that 140 was a good total on this wicket. The belief was there and as a captain, having so many bowling options like Gulbadin makes the job easier.”

With two teams from the group advancing to the semi-finals, Australia will now have to win their final match against unbeaten leaders India in St Lucia on Monday to be assured of a place in the last four.

Afghanistan, also on two points like Australia, will stay in St Vincent where they face Bangladesh later on Monday by which time they will know what is required to qualify for the semi-finals for the first time.

(AFP)

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