Red-letter day for Afghanistan cricket as they shock Australia in T20 World Cup

Afghanistan in ICC T20 WC 2024
Afghanistan in ICC T20 WC 2024 (PC: X)

It was a redemption story for Afghanistan in St Vincent as they avenged their defeat in the ICC 2023 World Cup to Australia by downing the formidable side in an ICC T20 World Cup game. Australia could muster a mere 127 in a chase of 149. Gulbadin Naib was the star performer, bagging a four-for.

The conditions were perfect for Afghanistan’s bowling attack as the track was staying low and slow. However, the bowlers have to still perform the task on hand, and that is where their execution was spot on. Travis Head’s wicket perfectly illustrates the point. The southpaw is not known for his moving his back foot across much. The best plan is to go round the wicket and attack Head on the inside-half by angling the ball back into him. Naveen-ul-Haq, the experienced paceman, did that to perfection and found just enough movement to castle the timber.

Mitchell Marsh followed Head back to the pavilion, with the score reading 16 for 2. David Warner, who struggled to make an impression, was dismissed for just three runs. At 32 for 3, Glenn Maxwell once again threatened to take the game away from Afghanistan’s grasp. Remember, the all-rounder had essayed a once-in-a-lifetime innings in the 2023 World Cup to power Australia to a monumental win over Afghanistan.

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Afghanistan vs Australia, ICC T20 WC 2024
Afghanistan vs Australia, ICC T20 WC 2024 (PC: X)

He took on N Kharote’s spin bowling and collected a four and a six. Even Rashid Khan wasn’t spared as he was drilled through covers and smacked via wide long-on. Naib, Afghanistan’s hero, was deposited into the stands as well. However, the all-rounder had the last laugh as he dislodged the dangerman, caught at backward point. It was a fine catch pouched by Noor Ahmed. The wild celebrations from the Afghanistan players indicated that all those inner demons of the 2023 World Cup had been conquered.

The next four wickets fell for just 21 runs, with Adam Zampa being the last man to fall. On expected lines, Afghanistan’s players celebrated long and hard. So, how did Naib go about implementing his plans? The all-rounder mainly targeted the stumps and nipped it back off the seam to finish with figures of 4 for 20 from overs. With some indentations coming into play, Naib’s skiddy pace bowling was perfectly suited to the conditions. Naveen and Rashid also played their parts.

Rahmanullah Gurbaz (60 runs) and Ibrahim Zadran (51 runs) also had a role to play as the opening duo shared a game-changing opening stand of 118 in just under 16 overs. Unfortunately, Afghanistan suffered a collapse after the fall of Gurbaz and could only eke out 30 runs in the last four overs. Pat Cummins and Zampa took five wickets between them.

In hindsight, Australia could have batted first in conditions, where it gets increasingly difficult to chase down targets. That is for Australia to ponder. For now, the entire cricketing landscape will be talking about Afghanistan’s red-letter day.

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