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Afghanistan into semi-finals, Australia out

AFP – Afghanistan advanced to their first-ever senior world tournament semi-final with a nerve-jangling eight-run victory over Bangladesh at the Twenty20 (T20) World Cup yesterday that eliminated mighty Australia.

Amid excruciating tension at the Arnos Vale Stadium in St Vincent, Afghan captain Rashid Khan and seamer Naveen ul Haq were the heroes as Afghanistan battled through three rain stoppages to secure a famous victory under the DLS scoring method that was sealed after 1am local time.

Defending a modest total of 115-5 on a bowler-friendly surface, Rashid finished with figures of 4-23 while Naveen took 4-26 as Bangladesh were dismissed for 105, chasing a revised target of 114 off 19 overs.

An unbeaten 54 from Bangladesh opener Litton Das (49 balls, five fours, one six) threatened to deny Afghanistan’s fairytale win and earn Australia the last semi-final spot.

But pacer Naveen claimed the last two wickets – Taskin Ahmed and Mustafizur Rahman – off consecutive deliveries to trigger delirious Afghan celebrations and leave a disconsolate Das stranded at the non-striker’s end.

Afghanistan’s Rahmanullah Gurbaz bats during the men’s T20 World Cup cricket match. PHOTO: AP

“We have worked so hard over the past few years and we were dreaming of this day. It’s a surreal experience,” said a relieved but delighted ‘man of the match’ Naveen. “We always knew they were going to be coming hard at us to try to get the target in 12.1 overs but we stuck to the task and kept getting wickets.”

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

Afghanistan will now face South Africa in the first semi-final in Trinidad tomorrow. Leg-spinner Rishad Hossain claimed three for 26 to lead the impressive Bangladeshi bowling effort.

Despite another good opening stand – 59 off 10.4 overs – the Afghans failed to capitalise on that platform with topscorer Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s laborious 43 off 55 balls typifying the struggle to get the ball away.

Ibrahim Zadran and Azmatullah Omarzai managed to get into double-figures but the rate of scoring remained pedestrian throughout.Seamer Taskin, one of two changes to the Bangladesh team which lost heavily to semi-final qualifiers India in their last match two days ago, produced a superb four-over spell, conceding just 12 runs for the wicket of former captain Mohammad Nabi.