Australia 168 for 8 (Maxwell 54*, Marsh 45, Naveen-ul-Haq 3-21) beat Afghanistan 164 for 7 (Rashid 48*, Gulbadin 39, Zampa 2-22) by four runs
If England wins on Saturday, they will go to the semifinals with a narrow victory.
With a confident, unbeaten half-century, Glenn Maxwell did his best to keep Australia’s hopes of making it to the semi-finals alive. However, the prospects of the hosts making it to the knockout rounds are now out of their control due to Afghanistan’s superb performance, which included a major scare from Rashid Khan at Adelaide Oval.
Even before England played Sri Lanka in their last group match on Saturday, the defending champions Australia needed to limit their opponents to 106 runs or fewer to surpass England’s net run rate. Maxwell’s innings helped the hosts reach 168 for 8 from their 20 overs after Naveen-ul-Haq and Fazalhaq Farooqi combined for five wickets to keep their opponents to a score that appeared competitive for the match but wasn’t quite enough to guarantee their progression.
As a result of the Black Caps’ 89-run victory in their opening game, Australia’s title defense has been severely damaged. The Black Caps have already secured a spot in the semifinals (Australia needed to defeat Afghanistan by 185 runs to surpass their NRR). Australia will now advance only if Sri Lanka defeats England; if England triumphs, they will join New Zealand in the next round.
While chasing 169, Gulbadin Naib and Ibrahim Zadran put up a third-wicket partnership of 59 runs. However, Australia regained the initiative with a run of four wickets in nine deliveries, two of which fell to Adam Zampa in his last over. Rashid scored an undefeated 48 off 23 balls at the end of the game, terrifying the home crowd while cheering his own supporters at the place he refers to as his “second home,” but Australia was able to hold on and win by four runs.
Given what was at risk for Australia, there was already a lot of buzz surrounding the game, and it only became louder when Mitchell Starc wasn’t selected to play.
After failing to recover sufficiently from hamstring problems, Steve Smith and Cameron Green were substituted by Aaron Finch and Tim David in a less contentious move.
However, the substitution of Kane Richardson for Starc confused both observers and pundits. Starc had been primarily deployed in the middle innings of this tournament, but several observers felt that this was a squandered opportunity given his destructive yorker and his capacity to destroy the opposition.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz was removed for a brisk 30 off 17 balls when Richardson struck with his third delivery of the competition. Gurbaz had gotten off to an eventful start, smashing the sixth ball of the Afghanistan innings off Josh Hazlewood into the second tier over deep square leg. He then avoided a sharp run-out opportunity when bowler Pat Cummins side-footed the ball onto the stumps, apparently injuring his shoulder in the process. Gurbaz contributed significantly after being cleared to bat.
Maxwell and Marsh collaborate
After Cameron Green was dismissed for just three runs in the third over after slicing Farooqi to Gulbadin at slip, Mitchell Marsh found himself at the bat. By this point, David Warner had consumed four fours and was actively pursuing everything. It didn’t, though.
Before being shot at point by Najibullah Zadran off Gulbadin with 19 to his credit, Marsh had watched Warner and Smith leave in the same Naveen over. Marsh continued to score runs, eventually reaching 45 off 30, slog-sweeping Mujeeb Ur Rahman over the square-leg boundary and hitting Gulbadin’s leg-cutter straight into the seats. He top-edged Mujeeb straight above his head, but he fell nonetheless, allowing Gurbaz to hold the catch behind the stumps.
Enter Maxwell, who played a superb innings to reach 54 not out off just 32 deliveries. In order to maintain Australia’s tempo and mental focus, he repeatedly hit the boundary with superb strokes through the covers and twice cleared the fence over midwicket.
Afghanistan’s heartbreaker tease
The Australian team needed to score as many runs as they could to boost their ailing title hopes, thus Naveen’s three wickets were essential in keeping them in check.
Afghanistan was then within striking distance of the key 106-run total that would have greatly aided Australia’s NRR comparison with England thanks to Gurbaz’s strong start and Gulbadin’s tenacious performance before he was run out by a superb Maxwell throw from midwicket. Afghanistan still fell short of the goal even after improving from 98 for 2 to 99 for 5 and 103 for 6.
Rashid, a Big Bash All-Star for the Adelaide Strikers, then entered the game and recorded his best T20I score to date. He then hit four sixes, including two consecutive maximums off Richardson into the stands over deep midwicket and long-off and another off Marcus Stoinis beyond deep square leg, which left his team’s side requiring 12 off the game’s final two balls. He was able to get two into the space between long-on and long-off, then added four more, leaving Afghanistan well shy of their goal but generating plenty of enthusiasm in the crowd.