Afghanistan upset Australia to keep T20 World Cup hopes alive

New York   -   Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s gutsy half-century and Gulbadin Naib’s four-wicket haul propelled Afghanistan to a remarkable victory over Australia in a crucial Super Eight match of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 at Arnos Vale Ground. In a must-win encounter, Afghanistan defended a total of 148 by bowling out Australia for 127, keeping their hopes for the semi-finals alive. Naveen-ul-Haq set the tone early by dismissing Travis Head for a duck and taking the crucial wicket of Australian captain Mitchell Marsh (12) in the third over. Mohammad Nabi added to Australia’s woes by removing David Warner for just three runs, leaving them struggling at 32-3 in 5.3 overs. Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis attempted to stabilize the innings with a 39-run partnership, but Gulbadin Naib broke through, dismissing Stoinis (11) with the score at 71.

Maxwell fought valiantly, trying to replicate his previous heroics against Afghanistan, but Naib struck again, taking Maxwell’s wicket for a top score of 59 off 41 balls, including six boundaries and three sixes. Naib then removed Tim David (2) and Afghanistan quickly wrapped up the Australian innings, with Azmatullah Omarzai taking the final wicket. Naib finished with impressive figures of 4-20, supported by Naveen-ul-Haq’s 3-20. Earlier, Afghanistan’s innings was anchored by a solid 118-run opening stand between Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran. Gurbaz scored a dynamic 60 off 49 balls, while Zadran contributed 51 off 48. Marcus Stoinis broke the partnership by dismissing Gurbaz, and Adam Zampa took two key wickets, including Zadran. Pat Cummins created history with his second consecutive T20I hat-trick, dismissing Rashid Khan, Karim Janat, and Gulbadin Naib in successive deliveries. Despite this, Afghanistan managed to post 148-6, with Mohammad Nabi adding valuable runs at the end. Player of the match Gulbadin Naib expressed his gratitude and excitement, saying, “Thanks to dear Allah. We’ve waited a long time for this moment. It’s a huge moment for our nation and our people. I have no words to express my gratitude to the fans who have supported us throughout our careers and cricket journey. I learned a lot from our batting innings, which helped me with my bowling. A big thanks to Rashid for trusting me. This victory was a complete team effort, with crucial contributions from Rahmanullah, Zadran, and Naveen. “Thank God we finally beat Australia. This is a significant achievement for Afghanistan. We’ve accomplished many things in the last ten years, but this is one of our biggest milestones. In the last World Cup, we performed well, and in this tournament, we’ve beaten New Zealand and now Australia, a champion side. We’re fortunate to have such a dedicated team and management. As for our next match against Bangladesh, we’ll take a rest tomorrow and then focus on our strategy. Every game is important, and we’ll continue to give our best.”

Scores in Brief

England 117-0 (Buttler 83*) beat USA 115 (Nitish 30, Jordan 4-10, Rashid 2-13) by 10 wickets.

Scores in Brief

AFGHANISTAN 148 for 6 (Gurbaz 60, Ibrahim 51, Cummins 3-28, Zampa 2-28) beat AUSTRALIA 127 (Maxwell 59, Gulbadin 4-20, Naveen 3-20) by 21 runs.

Azhar Khan is an accomplished senior sports journalist with extensive experience in the field. He can be reached at azharmasood786@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @azharmasood786