T20 World Cup 2024, 48th match between AFC and Australia, Super Eights, Group A match report, 22 June 2024

Afghanistan 148 for 6 (Gurbaz 60, Ibrahim 51, Cummins 3-28, Zampa 2-28) Australia 127 (Maxwell 59, Gulbadin 4-20, Navin 3-20), a difference of 21 points.

With reaching the semi-finals at stake, Australia’s top order was decimated by the Afghan seamers.

Glenn Maxwell then executed shot after shot to face Afghanistan and left them feeling like they had seen it before. One of them swept away four Azmatullah Omarzai, making Maxwell grin from ear to ear. After bringing up a half-century off 35 balls, Maxwell put his thumb on the Australian dressing room and looked set to secure his place in the quarter-finals and knock Afghanistan out once again.

However, Gulbuddin Naib combined with Noor Ahmed to stop Maxwell with 59 off 41 balls and keep Afghanistan alive in the T20 World Cup. After Naib ducked one wide of Maxwell’s swing arc, Noor made a stunning, low catch at back point. Maxwell’s exit left Australia on 106 for 6 in the 15th over, still needing 43 off 32 balls on a St Vincent pitch that offered a sharp turn and variable bounce.

Naib used these conditions to his advantage to take career-best T20I figures of 4 for 20 to help bowl Australia out for 127. Brought in as the eighth bowler, Naib took out Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Tim David and Pat Cummins to the headlines. Afghanistan’s famous victory was its first over Australia across various formats.

Earlier, Cummins had scored hat-tricks in successive World Cup matches, and came close to scoring four goals in four matches, but this was truly Naib and Afghanistan’s day.

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The opening act

Both openers took half-centuries, leaving Australia to wait until the 16th over for a breakthrough. Australia have never had to wait this long for a wicket in T20Is.

Gurbaz and Ibrahim played for 21 runs in the first four overs in which they managed just 17 runs. But in the next two innings they doubled the lead, ending the power play at 40 to 0.

Gurbaz then jumped from the crease and pumped Adam Zampa for six straight while Ibrahim created swing room and smashed Ashton Agar over cover point for four. Australia picked the left-hander, ahead of Mitchell Starc, to match Afghanistan’s right-handed heavy line-up on a spin-friendly surface, but he went wicketless (4-1-17-0).

Gurbaz and Ibrahim played high percentage shots to counter the conditions and Australia’s attack. Ibrahim could have been sent off in the 11th minute had Zampa not missed a difficult chance up the pitch; He ended up dodging it out of bounds. Abraham got another life on 32 when Stoinis bombed a returning catch. Australia continued to be uncharacteristically mediocre on the field, and Afghanistan capitalized on several missed opportunities.

Return

Cummins led Australia’s comeback at the death by scoring his second hat-trick in three days. On Saturday in St Vincent, Rashid Khan, Karim Janat and Naib were dismissed at the 18th and 20th overs. When he accomplished the feat against Bangladesh, Cummins said he forgot he had scored a hat-trick, but on Saturday against Afghanistan, he was aware of it, and put his hands up in celebration even before Maxwell caught the ball. Cummins would have had four off four had David Warner not dropped Nangialia Kharot off the next ball. From 118 for 0 in the 16th over, Afghanistan finished with 148 for 6, a middle-of-the-road match for anyone.

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Naveen’s double blow

Afghanistan have become accustomed to Fazlul Haq Faruqi hitting frequently in the powerplay, but here it was Naveen ul Haq who smashed Australia’s top order. After taking the first two balls away from Travis Head, Naveen threatened to return one to the angled batsman from around the wicket, but the ball swung and stuck away in a wicked way to make Head look silly and hit middle off stump. In his next over, Naveen asked Mitchell Marsh to cut the ball to mid-on with a slower ball at 108kmph which would have made Dwayne Bravo, the Afghan bowling consultant and Naveen’s teammate in the Texas Super Kings, proud.

Hello again, Maxwell

Australia were 16 for 2 in three overs. Enter Maxwell. He started the work with four balls from Omarzai in the space of three balls and then threw the left-arm spinner Kharoot out of the attack. He first swept back slip Kharot for four and swept it powerfully over midwicket in 13 runs. Kharoot finished off after just one ball.

Maxwell also took some calculated risks against Rashid and kept Australia in touch at the asking price. And when he reached his half-century with a six off the bench, the ghosts of Mumbai 2023 may have resurfaced in Afghanistan.

Nayeb flexes his muscles

But a deputy helped them exorcise the ghosts.

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Australia were 94 for 5 from 13 overs, with Maxwell and the end Wade in the middle. Vice had already eliminated Stoinis and David in his first two rounds. It wasn’t even part of Plan A for Afghanistan. With the players completely at fault, especially against Maxwell, Rashid turned to Naib, who responded with two more wickets.

Naib doesn’t have great speed, but he kept hitting the surface and making the ball react differently to it. After he got rid of Maxwell the third time, he flexed his muscles and let out a mighty roar that might have been heard in Kabul. Afghan fans in St. Vincent cheered with their hero and waved flags.

In his last encounter, Naib fooled Cummins with a slower cutter before Naveen and Omarzai sealed the Afghanistan deal.

Deevarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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