After Glenn Maxwell made an unbeaten 54 off 32 balls to carry Australia to a competitive 168/6, Gulbadin Naib and Ibrahim Zadran were leading Afghanistan to a famous win with their 59-run stand off 46 balls for the third wicket.
But Australia made a comeback, triggering an Afghanistan collapse from 99/2 to 103/6. But Rashid kept the fight alive for an improbable victory with a 23-ball 48, hitting three fours and four sixes at a strike rate of 208.7.
But he had too much to do in the end for a famous victory, even though he gave Australia an almighty scare as Afghanistan ended at 164/7 in 20 overs. Australia now need Sri Lanka to beat England at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday to give the hosts and defending champions a ticket to the semifinals.
In a batting line-up where captain Aaron Finch and finisher Tim David were missing due to hamstring injuries, Maxwell hit six fours and two sixes at a strike rate of 168.75 and found some support from Mitchell Marsh (45 off 30 balls) to give something to defend for their bowlers.
Australia’s total also meant that New Zealand became the first team to officially qualify for the semifinals of the tournament from Group 1. Pushed into batting first, David Warner had a rollicking start with four boundaries in the first two overs. Despite Cameron Green falling cheaply, Warner and Marsh were looking really good for getting big scores.
But Warner was cleaned bowled by Naveen-ul-Haq while going for an outrageous switch hit and Steve Smith was also trapped lbw to fall cheaply in the final over of the Power-play. Marsh batted well and even took a six as well as two fours off Gulbadin Naib in the ninth over. But he fell five short of his half-century as top-edge on slog-sweep was caught by the keeper off Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
In trouble at 86/4 in 10.4 overs, Maxwell entered the stage and batted superbly for a 53-run stand off 29 balls with Marcus Stoinis (25 off 21 balls) for the fifth wicket. The duo scored their runs quickly through boundaries and helped Australia aim for a big score.
Though Afghanistan took out Stoinis, stand-in captain Matthew Wade, Pat Cummins and Kane Richardson in quick succession, Maxwell ensured that his 29-ball fifty got Australia cross 160-mark.
In the chase, Rahmanullah Gurbaz got Afghanistan off to a quick start and was looking dangerous but Kane Richardson struck in his opening over to send him back for a 17-ball 30 while Josh Hazlewood took out Usman Ghani cheaply. Naib and Zadran joined forces to power Afghanistan’s charge for a famous win.
While Naib hit a quickfire 23-ball 39, hitting three fours and two sixes, Zadran supported him in the third wicket stand with 26 off 33 balls. But Afghanistan lost a flurry of wickets, getting Australia back into the contest.
Naib was run out by a direct hit from Glenn Maxwell in the deep before Adam Zampa removed Ibrahim Zadran and Najibullah Zadran while Josh Hazelwood removed Mohammad Nabi, as Australia saw hopes of bowling out Afghanistan.
Rashid hit some late boundaries to ensure Afghanistan were in the reckoning for a late win. After Darwish Rasooli was run-out in the 19th over, Australia were able to defend 22 off the final over despite Rashid hitting two fours and a six against a bowling attack minus Mitchell Starc which needed to bowl out Afghanistan for 106 or less to overhaul England’s net run rate.
Brief scores: Australia 168/8 in 20 overs (Glenn Maxwell 54 not out, Mitchell Marsh 45; Naveen-ul-Haq 3-21, Fazalhaq Farooqui 2-29) beat Afghanistan 164/7 in 20 overs (Rashid Khan 48 not out, Gulbadin Naib 39; Adam Zampa 2-22, Josh Hazlewood 2-33) by four runs
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