Rashid Khan – a member of the Big Bash League’s Adelaide Strikers since the side’s Championship-winning summer of 2017-18 – calls Adelaide his second home. The Afghan all-rounder, however, failed to make the most of the known conditions as Afghanistan fell four short of the 169-run target set by host Australia in a T20 World Cup Super-12 game.
With 22 needed from the last over, Rashid hammered Marcus Stoinis for a couple of fours and a six, but that was not enough.
Despite the hard-fought win, the Australian camp was far from happy as its place in the World Cup now hinges on Sri Lanka beating England in Sydney on Saturday.
To go past England’s net run-rate, Australia had to restrict Afghanistan to 106 and despite losing a flurry of wickets – Afghanistan was reduced to 103/6 from 99/2 in the space of nine deliveries – Afghanistan and Rashid refused to cave in.
Captain Aaron Finch and Tim David were ruled out with hamstring injuries. And in front of 18,672 spectators, pacers Fazalhaq Farooqi and Naveen-ul-Haq rocked Australia’s top order. While Farooqi removed opener Cameron Green early on, Naveen (three for 21) dismissed David Warner (28) and a returning Steve Smith in a span of four deliveries.
Mitchell Marsh hit 45 off 30 balls and steadied the ship with a six and two fours off Gulbadin Naib after Warner’s exit, but he was ultimately caught behind off Mujeeb’s spin.
Glenn Maxwell’s unbeaten 54 in the face of some inspired bowling steered the team to a competitive total. Maxwell and Stoinis forged a 53-run stand with the latter smashing Rashid for a huge six over mid-wicket, before departing.
In reply, Afghanistan was cruising at 98 for two after thirteen overs with Gulbadin Naib (39, 23b, 3x4, 2x6) and Ibrahim Zadran building a 59-run stand.
Just when another upset loomed large, Adam Zampa struck. In the first ball of his last over, a direct hit at the bowler’s end by Maxwell saw Gulbadin falling short.
In the next delivery, Ibrahim offered a regulation catch to Marsh at short fine leg. Two balls later, Najibullah Zadran, too, perished.
But Rashid, using his experience, hit a couple of sixes in the 18th over from Kane Richardson, before going on a carnage in the final over.
The heroics, however, were not enough and Afghanistan would be upset for failing to upstage the Aussies.