Afghanistan’s fairytale continues, Rashid’s bravehearts make first ever T20 World Cup semifinal

Kingstown, Jun 25 (PTI) The redoubtable Rashid Khan led the way as Afghanistan qualified for their maiden T20 World Cup semifinal with an eight-run win over Bangladesh in a rain-hit Super 8 match here, adding a golden chapter to their cricketing history that has survived war, political ostracization and lack of even a base at home.

In the process, Rashid’s maverick team knocked out 2021 champions Australia after having humbled them in their previous Super 8 match. The Afghans will now face South Africa in the last-four stage on June 27.

“It’s unbelievable, I don’t have any words to describe my feelings. Back home, everyone is so happy for this big achievement,” Rashid said in the post-match presentation.

Opting to bat after winning the toss, Afghanistan’s batting stumbled to a below-par 115/5 as Bangladesh bowlers made the most of a tricky pitch, bowling as many as 66 dot balls.

Leg-Spinner Rishad Hossain, 3/26, led the charge while for Afghanistan, opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz hit a painstaking 43 off 55 balls.

The match was eventually truncated to 19-overs-a-side due to frequent rain interruptions and Bangladesh was given a revised target on 114.

Afghanistan then showed just why and how they have managed to come this far in international cricket since becoming a full ICC member only in 2017, producing a gritty bowling performance, spearheaded by Rashid (4/23) and pacer Naveen-ul-Haq (4/26).

Their heroics ensured a successful and historic defence of the low score as Bangladesh were bowled out for 105 in 17.5 overs.

Litton Das (54 not out) was the lone warrior for Bangladesh in the game that also featured some questionable delaying tactics by the Afghans when they were ahead on DLS par score.

The Afghans’ job was made easy by India, who handed Australia a 24-run defeat last night.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Australians have been sent packing from the tournament by India and a team that considers India its home base for the lack of amenities in its strife-ravaged country.

Afghanistan have relied on their opening pair with the bat and bowl to set up their victories and the script was no different on Tuesday.

While Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran forged a crucial 59-run stand with the bat, Fazalhaq Farooqi and Naveen picked up wickets upfront.

Farooqi, who has made a habit of snaring early wickets, did exactly that as he sent Tanzid Hasan (0) packing in the second over which was followed by Naveen’s spectacular over in which the pacer claimed the scalps of Bangladesh skipper Najmul Hossain Shanto (5) and Shakib Al-Hasan (0).

Bangladesh were 31/3 when rain halted the proceedings. They resumed play on an aggressive note, clawing their way to 46/3 at the six-over mark.

Rashid then introduced himself and worked his inimitable sorcery.

He picked two wickets off his consecutive overs but Bangladesh continued their fearless approach and were ahead on the DLS par score.

However, the Afghan skipper was having none of it and went on to snare two wickets off consecutive balls, to also become the fastest to 150 T20 wickets, going past New Zealand’s Tim Southee.

When rain started pouring for the umpteenth time and Bangladesh were trailing on the DLS par score.

Afghan coach Jonathan Trott was seen animatedly asking his players to slow down from the dugout and all-rounder Gulbadin Naib went down, apparently complaining of cramps. The sudden breakdown was seen as a delaying tactic and prompted on-air commentator to call him “eighth wonder of the world” for recovering within minutes to begin bowling.

Das remained a thorn in Afghanistan’s side, standing firm and hammering the ball over square leg to bring up his half-century.

However, with wickets falling at the other end, Das was left alone as Naveen returned to remove Bangladesh’s number 9 and 10.

As the players began their emotional celebrations, it marked the beginning of a new era for the team, which has missed out on crucial international exposure due to Australia’s refusal to host it, citing the Taliban takeover and the poor state of women’s rights in the country.

Earlier, opting to bat Afghanistan batters found the going tough with the pitch offering turn and lateral movement.

The pair of Gurbaz and Zadran prioritised their wickets but Bangladesh got their breakthrough in the 11th over as Zadran (18 off 29) attempted to float one over long off. He didn’t get enough bat on it and Hossain claimed his first victim.

With the surface aiding some seam and swing, Bangladesh managed to slow Afghanistan down. Rashid hit two sixes off the last over to steer the Afghans past the 100 run mark.

Source: PTI News


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