Australia has kept its T20 World Cup dream alive, but the reigning champions face a nervous wait to see whether their tournament is over.
Too little, too late.
Australia has defeated Afghanistan by four runs at Adelaide Oval to keep its T20 World Cup dream alive, but the reigning champions face a nervous wait to see whether their defence campaign is over.
The equation is now painfully simple for Australia. If Sri Lanka defeats England in Sydney on Saturday evening, they’re through to the semi-finals. If England wins, their tournament is over.
Australia finds itself in such a precarious situation because of its woeful net run rate, which took a battering after last month’s massive loss to New Zealand.
Despite recording comfortable wins over Sri Lanka, Ireland and Afghanistan, their net run rate never truly recovered, currently sitting at -0.173.
“We put ourselves in that situation, been trying to chase a bit of run rate but it hasn’t gone our way,” Australian captain Matthew Wade said during the post-match presentation.
“We were a bit slow out of the blocks this tournament, hopefully it doesn’t cost us.”
Australia made three changes to its starting XI for Friday’s must-win match, with Steve Smith and Cameron Green replacing the injured Aaron Finch and Tim David.
Meanwhile, talented paceman Mitchell Starc was axed in favour of Kane Richardson, a baffling selection gamble that left many commentators scratching their heads.
After Afghanistan won the toss and elected to field first, Australia found itself in early trouble at 3/52 in the sixth over. Green edged behind for 2 before Smith was trapped on the front pad for 4, wasting a review before returning to the sheds.
Veteran opener David Warner became a laughing stock after botching a switch-hit attempt against Afghanistan seamer Naveen-ul-Haq, changing into a right-hander only to be bowled through the gate.
West Australian all-rounder Mitchell Marsh looked on track for a huge total before departing for 45 (30) moments after the drinks break.
Glenn Maxwell of Australia and Rahmanullah Gurbaz of Afghanistan.
Naveen-ul-Haq was superb at the death, conceding just seven runs from his final two overs to finish with figures of 3/21. Australia only mustered 25 runs from their last four overs.
The run chase got off to an explosive start with Afghanistan wicketkeeper Rahmanullah Gurbaz whacking 30 (17) in the Powerplay, but after he and fellow opener Usman Ghani were dismissed by Richardson and Josh Hazlewood respectively, the flow of runs steadied in the middle overs.
Ibrahim Zadran and Gulbadin Naib combined for a 59-run partnership for the third wicket, picking up the tempo after the drinks break to send some nerves through the Australian camp.
Australia’s fielding was relatively underwhelming, with a dropped catch from Cameron Green accompanied by some sluggish ground fielding on the boundary rope, but Maxwell pulled off a stunning run out in the 14th over, hitting the stumps from 40 metres away to send Naib back to the sheds for 39 (23).
Enter Adam Zampa.
Adam Zampa of Australia.
The leg-spinner struck twice in his fourth over of the evening, removing Zadran and Najibullah Zadran in quick succession to swing momentum firmly back in Australia’s favour.
Maxwell’s run out prompted a collapse of 4/5 from nine deliveries and Afghanistan never recovered, ultimately falling four runs short of the 169-run target.
Adelaide Strikers cult hero Rashid Khan provided some late fireworks in front of his makeshift home ground, plundering 48 not out from 23 ball to put Afghanistan within touching distance of a shock win.
It was Australia’s third-consecutive victory of the tournament, but each triumph will be remembered as a missed opportunity to rectify the team’s net run rate.
“We had to put a total on to give ourselves a chance to win the game,” Maxwell told reporters in the post-match press conference.
“They executed well and we couldn’t get away.
“We put ourselves in this situation but hopefully Sri Lanka can do the job for us.”
England will face Sri Lanka at the SCG on Saturday evening, with the first ball scheduled for 7pm AEDT. Australian cricket fans will be praying for an upset.
Australian cricket fans can breathe a sigh of relief.
Afghanistan has lost 3/1 in the space of four deliveries, with spinner Adam Zampa turning the tide at Adelaide Oval.
Najibullah Zadran was removed for a duck after chipping a catch to Glenn Maxwell at long-off, prompting loud cheers from the crowd.
Zampa finishes with 2/22 from his four overs.
The Australian fielding has been relatively underwhelming tonight, but Glenn Maxwell has pulled off a stunning run out to send Gulbadin Naib back to the sheds for 39.
The Afghanistan pair were sprinting through for a second run, only for Maxwell to hit the stumps from 40 metres away and find Naib short of his ground.
And spinner Adam Zampa struck the very next delivery, removing Ibrahim Zadran for 26 to swing momentum firmly back in Australia’s favour.
Australia’s innings finished slightly quicker than usual, with the hosts only given 119 deliveries due to an umpiring error.
The fourth over of Australia’s knock was only five deliveries, with the umpires switching ends one ball too early, and the blunder didn’t go unnoticed.
To make matters worse, the delivery that vanished was during the Powerplay, when fielding restrictions are in place.
The mistake hopefully won’t impact the final result, but there may be a few disgruntled Australian cricket fans out there if this match goes down to the wire.
Young all-rounder Cameron Green has put down a tough chance in the outfield, denying Kane Richardson a wicket with his first ball of the tournament.
Green sprinted across the outfield and dived forward, but hardly managed to get a hand on the ball.
Richardson didn’t have to wait long for a breakthrough, with Afghanistan wicketkeeper Rahmanullah Gurbaz gifting David Warner a catch at mid-on a couple of deliveries later.
Gulbadin Naib is the new man in the middle.
Josh Hazlewood has snared the early breakthrough for Australia, removing Afghanistan opener Usman Ghani for 2.
Ghani top-edged a pull shot off the Australian paceman, with Pat Cummins awkwardly settling under the chance at mid-on.
Ibrahim Zadran is the new man in the middle.
Well that was … something.
Australia has set Afghanistan a target of 169 for victory, with Glenn Maxwell scoring the 10th T20I fifty of his career, finishing unbeaten on 54.
Naveen-ul-Haq was absolutely superb with the ball at the death, finishing with 3/21 from four overs.
Realistically, the Aussies will need to roll Afghanistan for less than 100 to get their net run rate in a position that threatens England.
Marcus Stoinis is the latest Australian to fall, chipping a regulation catch to point off Rashid Khan’s bowling.
The West Australian departs moments after bringing up a 50-run partnership with Glenn Maxwell, who is looking dangerous at the crease.
Captain Matthew Wade is the new man in the middle.
How often does a wicket fall after the drinks break?
Mitchell Marsh was threatening to compile a big score against Afghanistan, smacking three boundaries and two sixes before departing in the 11th over.
The West Australian top-edged a full delivery from spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman, with wicketkeeper Rahmanullah Gurbaz settling under the chance.
Glenn Maxwell joins Marcus Stoinis in the middle.
Things aren’t looking good for Australia, with Steve Smith back in the sheds for 4.
Smith was trapped on the front pad by Naveen-ul-Haq, and umpire Langton Rusere raised the dreaded finger,
After briefly consulting Mitchell Marsh at the other end, Smith decided to call for the review, which showed he was absolutely plumb.
Marcus Stoinis walks out to the middle.
Australian opener David Warner has been castled for 25 after botching a switch-hit against Afghanistan seamer Naveen-ul-Haq.
After swapping his grip to become a right-handed batter, Naveen-ul-Haq’s slower ball slid past Warner’s forward defence and into middle stump.
It was an truly ugly dismissal.
“He’s played a cover drive like a four-year-old would in the back garden,” former England cricketer Alex Hartley said on BBC commentary.
Steve Smith is the new man in.