Afghanistan shock Australia to keep semi-final hopes alive


Afghanistan's win is their first over Australia in any format of the game. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

By Sam DruryBBC Sport journalist, June 23: Afghanistan shocked Australia to keep their T20 World Cup hopes alive with a historic 21-run win in St Vincent.

Needing a victory to avoid elimination, Afghanistan posted 148-6 on a challenging surface on the back of a superb opening stand of 118 between Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran.

They quickly reduced Australia to 32-3 in the chase before Glenn Maxwell’s 35-ball half-century recovered the situation for the 2021 champions.

But just when Australia seemed to have the advantage, Gulbadin Naib removed Marcus Stoinis and Tim David before taking the prize wicket of Maxwell.

From there, Australia collapsed from 106-6 to 113-9 and Afghanistan sealed the win - their first over Australia in any form of cricket - in the final over.

"We've been waiting for a long time, it's a great moment for me, my nation, my people," said player of the match Gulbadin.

Pat Cummins had earlier taken his second hat-trick in as many games - the first player to achieve the feat in T20 internationals - but despite Australia's fightback with the ball, Afghanistan's total proved to be beyond them.

Rashid Khan's side are now firmly back in contention to reach the semi-finals and face Bangladesh in their last Super 8s game (Tuesday, 01:30 BST).

"It's a massive win for us as a team and as a nation," added Rashid. "In a World Cup, to beat champions [Australia are 50-over world champions] is a great feeling and it is something we have missed.

“It's just the beginning for us and we have every chance of making the semis."

Meanwhile, Australia takes on India in St Lucia (Monday, 15:30 BST) and will likely need to win to progress to the last four.

History for Afghanistan

A win for Australia would have taken them and India safely through to the semis with a game to spare.

Instead, the group has been brought to life thanks to a memorable Afghanistan win.

"It's so important for us and back home. People in Afghanistan are badly missing this win and I'm sure they are proud of us," said Rashid.

The first moment of intrigue came at the toss when Australia opted to bowl first at a ground where chasing has historically been difficult.

However, it quickly became apparent that batting was not going to be simple on a bouncy pitch offering movement for seamers and spinners alike.

"We were outplayed tonight," Marsh said. "I don't think it was won or lost at the toss, I was more than happy to bowl first."

Afghanistan’s openers battled through some tricky opening overs before accelerating towards the end of the powerplay.

Gurbaz and Zadran picked their moments to attack superbly as the innings progressed but, with boundaries not always easy to come by, it was their tireless running between the wickets that kept the momentum going.

Afghanistan, who are coached by former England batter Jonathan Trott, faltered once the partnership was broken with Cummins nipping in to claim his own landmark late in the innings but the openers had done more than enough to give their side a chance.

They got the ideal start in the second innings, too, as Naveen-ul-Haq bowled Travis Head with a beautiful third ball and then got rid of Australia skipper Mitchell Marsh with a slower ball.

When David Warner fell in the last over of the powerplay, Afghanistan were in control but they knew better than to think the job was done against Australia, especially with Maxwell at the crease.

The all-rounder produced one of the great innings to deny them at the 50-over World Cup in India last year and, for a time, he threatened to repeat the feat.

But this time Afghanistan would not be denied. Naib dragged them over the line almost single-handedly, taking four wickets – including the big one of Maxwell, caught at backward point – and then diving to take a stunning catch to get rid of Ashton Agar.

Adam Zampa was the last man to go, holing out off Azmatullah Omarzai with four balls left in the match as Afghanistan clinched a momentous triumph.

The joyous celebrations told the story of Australia being defeated at last. And now Afghanistan has the chance to add further chapters before this World Cup is done.

“Our journey starts now," added Gulbadin. "We're very lucky to have a team like this.”

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