Afghanistan stun Australia to throw Group 1 wide open | Crickit

Afghanistan stun Australia to throw Group 1 wide open

By, Mumbai
Jun 23, 2024 12:22 PM IST

Gulbadin Naib's stellar bowling effort inspired Afghanistan to their first-ever win over Australia

Until Glenn Maxwell was at the crease, the Afghanistan players couldn’t help feel a sense of deja vu.

Afghanistan's Gulbadin Naib is carried from the field as he celebrates with teammates after defeating Australia.(AP)
Afghanistan's Gulbadin Naib is carried from the field as he celebrates with teammates after defeating Australia.(AP)

The last time Australia faced Afghanistan, at the 2023 ICC World Cup played at the Wankhede Stadium, a cramping Maxwell had pulled off a miraculous win from 91/7 in pursuit of 293. His epic double-hundred had put Australia back on track for another world title and left Afghanistan on the brink of elimination.

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On Saturday night, the Australia batter was threatening to repeat his heroics in the ICC 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup Super Eight match played at the Arnos Vale Ground, Kingstown, St Vincent.

The script was similar. None of the other Australia batters could get going but Maxwell again was making it look like he was batting on a different surface. At the end of the 14th over, he had taken the total to 105/5, bringing the equation down to 44 runs from 36 balls, himself batting on 59 off 39 balls.

Afghanistan were in need of a moment of brilliance. It came from Noor Ahmad in fielding as he pulled off a fine, dipping catch at backward point as Maxwell sliced at a length ball off Gulbadin Naib. The main threat gone; Afghanistan bowlers cut through the rest of the batting line-up with ease to script their first-ever victory over Australia in a World Cup match.

It was a superb all-round game display from Afghanistan. Put into bat, the Asian team were on the money from ball one.

Their openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz (60/49 balls) and Ibrahim Zadran (51/48b) rattled the bowlers with their confident play. In a superb opening act, the two put on 118 runs, the highest-ever opening partnership against Australia in T20 World Cups. On a turning pitch, a total of 148 was always going to test Australia. Their worst fears came true as they were bowled out for 127 in 19.2 overs to crash to a 21-run defeat.

Pace bowler Gulbadin Naib was the star of the show as he picked up four wickets, including Maxwell, for just 20 runs, He also took a fine catch off Ashton Agar. Pacer Naveen-ul-Haq had done the early damage by claiming wickets in his first two overs to finish with excellent figures of 4-0-20-3. He set the cat among the pigeons by clean bowling opener Travis Head with the ball, that was full and swung late, of the innings.

The result has thrown the Group 1 wide open. Australia have the challenge of playing an in-form India in their final group game.

If Afghanistan beat Bangladesh, and Australia beat India, it will come down to NRR. Australia have a superior run-rate (0.223) compared to Afghanistan, but inferior to India (2.425).

Even if Australia beat India by one run, Afghanistan (-0.650) need to win by 36-plus runs to overtake Australia on NRR and become the second qualifying team.

Bangladesh, who have lost both their games, also have an outside chance. If India beat Australia and Bangladesh defeat Afghanistan by a big margin, then Bangladesh could get in too.

Winning captain Rashid Khan said it was great to finally put it across Australia. "It's a massive win for us as a team and nation. Beating Australia is a great feeling. It is something we missed out, in 2023 ODI World Cup and also the 2022 World Cup in Australia,” said Rashid.

Talking about the significance of the win, the ace leg-spinner said: “So important for us at home and our fans around the world. Wherever Afghans are, they were badly missing this win. It's just the beginning for us. We have all the chances of making the semis."

After a superb opening stand, the rest of the Afghanistan batters couldn’t capitalise, their third highest score being 13 after the half-centuries by their two openers. But with the pitch offering sharp turn to the spinners; bounce and movement to the pacers, Rashid said they 148 was going to test Australia’s batting.

“We thought 140 was a good score on this track. We didn't finish well with the bat, but on this pitch, you can always struggle, and we struggled at the end. However the start given by them, it helped us post this total. We knew we were capable of defending as long as we stayed calm. The way Gulbadin bowled, his experience, that really helped today. Overall great effort by the boys."

Australia captain Mitchell Marsh admitted their outplayed. “They got 20 too many. And to be honest they played a really good game of cricket. We were outplayed tonight.”

On the challenge of playing India in the final game, Marsh said: “First and foremost it becomes clear for us (that) we need to win and no better team to do it against. Full credit to Afghanistan for tonight and we move on quickly."

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