Australia beat Afghanistan to keep semi-final hopes alive

Adelaide. Defending champions Australia managed to keep their semi-final hopes alive with a close four-run victory over Afghanistan in a T20 World Cup match after finally escaping Rashid Khan’s threat here on Friday. The win moved Australia to second place in Group I with seven points from five matches, while New Zealand also have seven points, becoming the first team to qualify for the semi-finals thanks to a better net run rate. The Aussies, however, failed to surpass England’s net run rate as the hosts had to bundle out Afghanistan for 106 runs after making 168 for eight. This means that if England beat Sri Lanka in their final match in Sydney on Saturday, they will also be on seven points and will advance to the semi-finals with New Zealand in Group One thanks to a better net run rate. Glenn Maxwell scored an unbeaten 54 off 32 balls for Australia but Afghanistan allowed defending champions Australia to score 168 for eight in the last five overs with tight bowling. Maxwell hit six fours and two sixes during his innings. Apart from him, Mitchell Marsh contributed 45 runs and Marcus Stoinis contributed 25 runs.


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In reply, Afghanistan came close to a sensational victory thanks to Rashid’s innings (48 not out off 23 balls, four sixes) but in the end his team could manage only 164 for seven. Afghanistan won the toss and invited Australia to bat, but eventually lost by four runs. Rahmanullah Gurbaz got off to a good start with 30 off 17 balls, hitting two fours and as many sixes. But Australia made a comeback by dismissing both the openers. Gulbadin Naib (39 runs) and Ibrahim Zadran (26 runs) though were in no mood to give up easily, put on a 46-ball 59-run stand for the second wicket to keep the team in the running for victory. But Maxwell ended the partnership with a brilliant fielding. Naib’s innings ended with a straight throw from Maxwell’s deep mid-wicket to the stumps and on the very next ball, Jadran also touched the bat to Adam Zampa and caught Marsh. Zampa then dismissed Najibullah Zadran, causing Afghanistan to deviate from their strategy in the 14th over. In the end, Rashid made some brilliant shots and shared a quick 28-ball 45 with Darvish Rasuli as the team needed 22 runs to win in the final over. Rashid hit two fours and a six on Stoinis in the final over but was left out of the win. Earlier, Afghanistan won the toss and invited Australia to bat, after which the team lost the wicket of Cameron Green early.

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David Warner (25 off 18 balls) and Marsh (45 off 30 balls) picked up the pace with their strokes. But in the sixth over, the in-form Warner and Steve Smith’s wickets fell in the powerplay, taking the team’s score to 53 for three. Warner was bowled by Navin-ul-Haq’s off-cutter while Smith was lbw after three balls. Marsh then tried to sweep the slog and was caught by wicket-keeper Rahmanullah Gurbaz on Mujibur Rahman’s delivery as Australia lost four for 86 in the 11th over. Then Maxwell and Stoinis added 53 runs in just 29 balls for the fifth wicket to increase the team’s score. Maxwell was looking in fine form, he was hitting the Afghanistan bowlers for fours with cut shots, pull shots. However, Stoinis struggled in his ‘timing’. Stoinis hit just two sixes during his 21-ball innings and then returned to the pavilion by giving a simple catch to Usman Ghani at backward point off Rashid Khan. Caretaker captain Matthew Wade also could not last long, he was dismissed by a yorker by Fazlhaq Farooqui. In this way, Australia’s score was 133 for four in 15 overs. The team continued to lose wickets like this, which could not create momentum and it became difficult for Maxwell to hit fours. Maxwell completed his fifty in 29 balls with a boundary off Farooqui in the final over and also helped to make the score by sending the last ball for a four. Naveen-ul-Haq bowled brilliantly for Afghanistan, taking three wickets for 21 runs in four overs. Fazlhaq Farooqui also did well, taking two wickets for 29 runs.

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