Australia have secured their place in the semi-finals of the ICC’s Cricket World Cup in India.
The big-hitting Glenn Maxwell wielded the willow, clubbing an unbeaten 201 runs, the highest score of the tournament so far to help guide the three-time champions to an incredible three-wicket win over Afghanistan at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
Opener Ibrahim Zadran was the mainstay of Afghanistan’s innings after they won the toss and chose to bat first in Mumbai.
He helped to set the platform for competitive score-sharing in an 83-run second-wicket partnership with Rahmat Shah and then a 52-run third-wicket stand with Hashmatullah Shahidi.
Remaining patient and composed Zadran carried his bat recording the first-ever century for his country in a World Cup. He partnered Rashid Khan in the dying overs, in a 52-run partnership that saw them well past the 250-mark.
Khan brought the fireworks clubbing a cameo 35 runs from just 18 deliveries. Zadran, who scored eight four and three sixes finished unbeaten on 129 as Afghanistan posted a defendable 291 for five in the 50 overs.
Seamer Naveen-ul-Haq made a dream start with the ball. Striking early, he dismissed Travis Head for a duck in the second over and he followed that up with the wicket of Mitchell Marsh for 24 in the sixth over. But it was Azmatullah Omarzai who sent fans into a frenzy. He bowled David Warner out for 18 and then scalped Josh Inglis for a duck with the very next delivery.
Omarzai missed out on a hat-trick, but the Aussies slumped to 49 for four in the ninth over, still needing 243 runs to win. And it didn’t get any better for the three-time champions as Marnus Labuschagne was needlessly run out for 14 a short while later thanks to a direct hit from Rahmat Shah.
Khan also got in on the action taking two wickets in consecutive overs. He trapped Marcus Stoinis leg before and followed that up, somewhat controversially, with the wicket of Mitchell Starc for three and Australia was staring down the barrel on 91 for seven. But Glenn Maxwell and captain Pat Cummins miraculously orchestrated their recovery.
Dispatching the bowlers to all parts of the ground, they put on a massive, match-winning 202-runs for the eighth wicket with Maxwell the aggressor posting the highest individual score of the tournament so far 201 runs from just 128 deliveries.
Struggling through cramps his heroics were eventually rewarded as Australia managed to chase down the target just inside their 50 overs recording an unbelievable three-wicket victory to qualify for the semi-finals.
Afghanistan still have one more game, against South Africa in Ahmedabad on Friday while the Aussies’ last clash is against Bangladesh on Saturday.