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Australia look to seal semi final spot as Afghanistan battle for survival

The previous meeting between Australia and Afghanistan was one that will be remembered for ages. A cramping Glenn Maxwell did what had never been done before. Australia were down and out, 91 for 7 chasing 293, but Maxwell’s breathtaking double-century took his side to a miraculous win. 

The two sides will once again take on each other in Kingstown for an important super-eight fixture of the 2024 T20 World Cup. A win for Australia will confirm not only their place but India’s too in the semi-finals, while Afghanistan, who all referred to as dark horses, will have to leave the tournament along with Bangladesh. 

This game is significant not only due to the semi-final qualification but also because of the tension between the two boards in the recent past. Cricket Australia has refused to play any bilateral series with Afghanistan due to political reasons. This decision by Cricket Australia has been seriously condemned by not only the Afghanistan Cricket Board but also by some of the main players including Rashid Khan who threatened to pull out of the BBL. Afghanistan’s players will be looking at this match as an opportunity to prove a point about their stature in international cricket.

Afghanistan had a blistering start to this World Cup by demolishing New Zealand in their opening fixture. A defeat from which New Zealand never recovered and were eliminated in the first round. This win for Afghanistan was followed by two more victories against Uganda and PNG. However, the last two games haven’t gone too well for the Afghan side with a one-sided defeat at the hands of the West Indies in the final group stage, and then another underwhelming performance against India in their first super-eight fixture. 

They now face 2021 T20 and 2023 ODi champions Australia, on a venue where the spinners are likely to thrive and this might just be the opportunity for Afghanistan to trouble the mighty Aussies. The Afghan spinners have been having a wonderful tournament regardless of the conditions, even in their last game against India, Rashid Khan was able to take crucial wickets at the right time. The batting strength remains the biggest concern for Rashid’s side. On a day when Rahmanullah Gurbaz fires, everything seems to come through for Afghanistan, however, his wicket early on in the innings brings a collapse more often than not.

Australia are unbeaten in the tournament, and while they have been hot and cold at times, the performances have generally been dominating. Mitchell Marsh’s side has been clicking in all departments of the game. The opening pair of David Warner and Travis Head has given them fast starts consistently, and they have been well-complimented by consistent runs from the middle order. Marsh would definitely be scratching his head thinking about Maxwell’s form. The spinning allrounder has been out of touch for well over 3 months now, with a terrible IPL season and no impact as such so far in this tournament. However, given his heroics in the last meeting between these two sides, Maxwell is too good a player to be left on the bench. 

Kingstown has proved to be a friendly venue for the spinners, with them picking 22 wickets at an economy of 5.64 in six innings this tournament. More of the same is expected when two of the very best legspinners Rashid and Adam Zampa will be in action.