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Afghanistan conquer Bangladesh to secure first-ever World Cup semis spot

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LAHORE: Afghanistan conquered Bangladesh in one of the sensational ICC Men’s T20 World Cup contests of all time to make it to the semi-finals, for the first time ever.
Set to secure their semi-final berth the Afghans did fantastic job, ending Australia’s journey by finishing second in Group 1 of the Super Eights. They join India, England and South Africa as the tournament’s four remaining World Cup contenders.
The Tigers were also in the running, needing to win and win well. But ultimately, it would come down to whether Afghanistan or Australia would progress, as Bangladesh’s run chase in St Vincent went through countless twists and turns.
Rashid Khan won the toss for Afghanistan and they opted to bat first. It took no time for the drama to commence.
On the very first ball, there was action as opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz was nearly run out off a quick single, only just making it through. But it was a sign of what was to come.
Bangladesh were relishing the challenge at hand, making run-scoring tough and restricting the Afghans to only five runs from their first two overs.
But like the pair have done on numerous times already, Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran prioritised their wickets, and to good effect. They steered Afghanistan to 27/0 at the conclusion of the Powerplay, but easy runs were proving hard to come by.
Gurbaz and Zadran made it another 50-run stand early in the ninth over, creating a little slice of history in the process. They became the first pair to put together four partnerships of at least 50 in a T20 World Cup.
While Bangladesh did a good job of keeping their opponent’s run rate under control, the extras were adding up – 13 in the first nine overs alone. Afghanistan made it to drinks at 58/0, needing to start pushing the pace more.
The breakthrough wicket came on the fourth ball after the mid-innings break, as Zadran (18 off 29) was caught. The 12th over was a well-timed maiden for the Tigers, as more nerves kicked in for Afghanistan’s batters.
Gurbaz landed two reliving fours in the 14th oval, but that patch of action was surrounded by tight bowling. The pressure started producing chances for the Bangladesh and they didn’t miss out.
Azmatullah Omarzai feathered one, removed cheaply, while Gurbaz (43 off 55) was gone two balls later to start the 16th over – his contribution was utterly vital to the Afghans posting a total that would prove even remotely competitive.
Bangladesh took another two wickets before the 18 over mark, seeing Afghanistan at 99/5 with two overs to go.
Rashid Khan put together an entertaining cameo, sending three over the rope and throwing his bat in disgust of the running between the wickets at one point too. But his efforts propelled Afghanistan to 115/5 from 20 overs, right as rain arrived in St Vincent. Australia would join the two competing teams in anxiously waiting to see how long the shower would stick around for.
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Gurbaz was back in focus as play finally resumed, but not on a positive note. An awkwardly-bouncing ball struck the keeper on the knee, causing another short break in play. He limped off the ground, as the most dramatic innings of the tournament officially kicked off.
Fazalhaq Farooqi removed Tanzid Hasan (0 off 3) to claim yet another T20 World Cup scalp. And Naveen-ul-Haq struck two huge blows in the third over, including the captain.
Midway through the fourth, the rain arrived again. The second delay would exhaust the match’s time reserve – any more delay and DLS would come into effect.
The Tigers clawed their way to 46/3 at the six-over mark, as Litton Das and Soumya Sarkar settled into a partnership across the back half of the Powerplay.
That triggered the introduction of Rashid Khan into the attack, who struck in an instant, removing Sarkar (10 off 10). The pressure was again on Bangladesh, just as their semi-final hopes had started to rise significantly.
The Tigers needed to complete the run chase in 12.1 overs to overtake the Aussies and qualify for the final four. Back-to-back Towhid Hridoy boundaries in the eighth over swung momentum away from Afghanistan, but Khan took care of Hridoy next over – yet another twist.
Das steadied the ship, as drinks approached, finding assistance from reliable veteran Mahmudullah. The pair had their team at 77/5 at drinks.
In what was proving to be the most chaotic match of the tournament, Khan collected back-to-back wickets to end the 11th over, including Mahmudullah, and place the contest firmly back in the balance. Khan had 17/4 off three overs, doing everything he possibly could.
Suddenly, the rain arrived again, as the Afghans moved above DLS par by a couple of runs. But the third delay was only short-lived, as players returned to the field. The Tigers edged back in front of par in the 13th over, despite their semi-final chances officially coming to an end. Khan finished with figures of 23/4.
The requirement became 20 runs from the last four overs and a timely boundary saw Litton reach a 41-ball half century. He looked to dominate strike and carefully craft the finishing touches on the chase.
But Taskin Ahmed (2 off 9) chopped on a Naveen-ul-Haq ball, making it 109/9 with Bangladesh requiring nine runs from the final eight deliveries – with just one wicket in hand. Mustafizur Rahman walked out to the middle, thinking only about survival. But he was out plum LBW, first ball, as Naveen-ul-Haq’s fourth scalp cued pandemonium.
Afghanistan officially claimed their seat at the semi-final table in the most dramatic of circumstances.
With input from ICC.

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