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Friday, July 12, 2024  
05 Muharram 1446  

For first time, Afghanistan qualify for World Cup semi-final

Beat Bangladesh in thrilling contest of T20 World Cup at Arnos Vale Stadium in St Vincent
Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan (R) and Mohammad Ishaq celebrate the dismissal of Bangladesh’s Rishad Hossain during the ICC men’s T20 World Cup 2024 Super Eight cricket match at Arnos Vale Stadium in Arnos Vale, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on June 24, 2024. AFP
Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan (R) and Mohammad Ishaq celebrate the dismissal of Bangladesh’s Rishad Hossain during the ICC men’s T20 World Cup 2024 Super Eight cricket match at Arnos Vale Stadium in Arnos Vale, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on June 24, 2024. AFP
‘Massive achievement’: Afghanistan captain Rashid Khan (L) and Gulbadin Naib celebrate the win over Bangladesh. AFP
‘Massive achievement’: Afghanistan captain Rashid Khan (L) and Gulbadin Naib celebrate the win over Bangladesh. AFP

Afghanistan advanced to their first-ever T20 World Cup semi-final after completing a dramatic eight-run victory over Bangladesh in a rain-affected clash at the Arnos Vale Stadium in St Vincent on Monday.

Defending a modest total of 115 for five on a bowler-friendly surface, Afghan captain Rashid Khan belied three rain stoppages, a slippery ball and a revised target of 114 off 19 overs to take four for 23 as Bangladesh, who themselves harboured faint hopes of making the last four, were dismissed for 105 off 17.5 overs.

An unbeaten 54 from opener Litton Das was threatening to take Bangladesh to victory and earn Australia the last semi-final spot on net run-rate.

But pacer Naveenul Haq claimed the last two wickets — Taskin Ahmed and Mustafizur Rahman — off consecutive deliveries in the penultimate over of the match to trigger delirious Afghan celebrations.

With India defeating Australia earlier in the day and advancing to the second semi-final against England in Guyana on Thursday, this result assured the Afghans of second spot in the group and eliminated the Aussies together with the Bangladeshis.

Afghanistan will now face South Africa in the first semi-final in Trinidad on Wednesday.

Afghanistan hail Lara inspiration in T20 World Cup heroics

Afghanistan captain Rashid Khan hailed the inspiration of cricket legend Brian Lara for helping them secure a place in the T20 World Cup for the first time.

“I think we have proved one person right was Brian Lara, the only person who mentioned Afghanistan will be in the semis,” said Rashid.

“I think we told him that when we met him in the welcome party. When you get that kind of great, great statement from a legend, as a team, I think it gives you lots of energy.”

Afghanistan will face undefeated South Africa in the first semi-final in Trinidad on Wednesday.

India will tackle defending champions England in the second semi-final in Guyana on Thursday.

Defending a modest total of 115-5 against Bangladesh in their final second round Super Eights match on a bowler-friendly surface, Rashid finished with figures of 4-23.

Naveen-ul-Haq took 4-26 as Bangladesh were dismissed for just 105, chasing a revised target of 114 off 19 overs.

On a night of fluctuating emotions there were also three rain delays which saw various mathematical equations come into play.

Had Bangladesh scored their runs in 12.1 overs, they would have won the match and claimed the remaining semi-final spot.

There was tension after Bangladesh fell behind the asking rate at the end of the 11th over when Afghanistan all-rounder Gulbadin Naib went down with cramps just as the threat of more rain appeared.

Rashid insisted the incident was not a device to keep his side ahead of the run rate should the match be halted permanently.

“He had some cramp, I don’t know what happened to him and I don’t know what’s going on in social media but that doesn’t matter,” said the captain.

“It’s just a field injury which comes and then we haven’t lost any overs, the rain came and we just went off, it’s not something like brought a massive difference in the game.

“We came back on field after five minutes and there was no massive difference. For me, it’s just like a small injury, you have to take some time.”

South Africa made the semi-finals with seven wins in seven matches but they have been pushed to the limit.

Against Nepal in the opening round, they won by just one run.

However, South Africa have defeated Afghanistan in their only two other T20 meetings – by 59 runs at Barbados in the 2010 World Cup and 37 runs in Mumbai six years later.

“It’s a big achievement for us as a team and a nation being in the semi-finals and with the cricket we have played in the whole tournament I think we deserve it,” added Rashid who played in that 2016 defeat, where he went wicketless for 51 runs.

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