Defending champs Australia’s semifinal hopes hung by a thread
Glenn Maxwell smashing a timely half century against Afghanistan

Guwahati: The ICC T20 World Cup’s Group 1 has been rightfully projected as the Group of Death. Defending champions and hosts Australia’s chances of qualifying for the semifinals are now hanging by a thread after surviving the Rashid Khan scare for the 4-run victory over Afghanistan at the Adelaide Oval on Friday.

After Glenn Maxwell’s belligerent 54 off 32 deliveries helped the Aussies post a competitive 168/8, all they needed was to contain the Afghans for 106 or less to get past England’s net run rate of 0.547 before England played Sri Lanka in their final group game on Saturday.

The Kangaroos were well in control of the chase, triggering a mini collapse with four wickets in nine balls to reduce the Afghans from a comfortable 99 for 2 to 103 for 6, after Gulbadin Naib’s 59-run stand with Ibrahim Zadran for the third wicket.

However, in an anti-climax of sorts, Australia’s hopes of keeping in sync with the net run rate flew out of the window as soon as Rashid took charge. What followed was a whirlwind 48 off 23 balls from Rashid’s blade, leaving the Aussies staring at a possible upset before managing to hold on by four runs.

New Zealand confirm semis berth

While their Trans-Tasman rivals were busy scratching their heads over the net run rate, New Zealand became the first team to confirm their semifinal berth with a handsome 35-run win over Ireland at the same venue in the first match of the day.

Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson dusted off the rust with a 35-ball 61 to set himself up for the knockouts after Finn Allen (32) and Devon Conway (28) set the tone with a 52-run opening stand. Williamson slammed three sixes and five fours to silence his critics after a below-par campaign so far in the tournament, and propel the Kiwis to a commanding 185/6.

For the Irish side, Josh Little’s timely hattrick prevented the Kiwis from reaching 200 after being comfortably placed at 174 for 3 with 11 balls remaining. Little’s hattrick was the second of this tournament after Karthik Meiyappan’s effort for UAE against Sri Lanka in the first round.

In reply, the Irish side began perfectly, thanks to a 68-run opening stand from Andy Balbirnie (30) and Paul Stirling (37) of the first eight overs before the Kiwi spin twins – Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner – not only stifled the flow of runs but also triggered a collapse with a couple of wickets each, even as Lockie Ferguson rocked the middle order to restrict them to 150 for 9.

The win boosted New Zealand’s already-superior net run rate to 2.113, thereby sealing their spot in the last four.

Also Read | Asian c’ships: Shiva in QFs; Lovlina, Ankushita in action on Saturday

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