Afghanistan's greatest moment on the cricket field

Gulbadin Naib, second left, played a key role in Afghanistan's victory. Photo: AFP/Randy Brooks

Afghanistan pulled off the greatest win in their cricket history when they stunned hot favourites Australia by 21 runs in a Super Eight clash of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup at St Vincent on Saturday night. The shock win also boosted their hopes of reaching the semifinals of a global tournament for the first time.

There has never been any doubt about the abilities of the Afghan players, especially while defending totals on favourable tracks. On a slow wicket at the Arnos Vale Ground, Australian captain Mitchell Marsh's decision to bowl first backfired big time. The opening stand of 118 between Rahmanullah Gurbaz (60) and Ibrahim Zadran (51) meant the Afghans were always in the game despite a late collapse which resulted in them finishing on 148/6. 

The key to Australia's chase was how their explosive openers David Warner and Travis Head would fare in the powerplay overs. The Aussies slumped to 32/3 inside six overs, with medium-pacer Naveen-ul-Haq sending back Head (0) and Marsh (12), while veteran offie Mohammed Nabi accounted for Warner (3). 

Just like in the ODI World Cup clash between the two sides in Mumbai last year, the onus was on Glenn Maxwell to bail Australia out. The mercurial Maxwell, who blasted an incredible 201 to lift Australia from 91/7 and chase down 292 at the Wankhede Stadium, again threatened to take the game away. But a superb catch by Noor Ahmed off Gulbadin Naib's bowling cut short Maxwell's 41-ball 59. From then on, the Afghans were in control and they wrapped up a comfortable victory.

The seasoned Naib won the player-of-the-match award for his 4/18. Skipper Rashid Khan used as many as eight bowlers and it shows the strength and flexibility in the Afghan ranks.

Afghan fans
It was a night to remember for the Afghan fans. Photo: AFP/Randy Brooks

Their maiden win over Australia will instill greater belief in the minds of Rashid & Co. This could well be the breakthrough victory that raises the Afghans' game to the next level. They had sent out warning signals by slaying England and Pakistan in the 2023 ODI World Cup and had shocked New Zealand in the group stage of the ongoing tournament.

Any cricket lover will be thrilled at Afghans' moment of glory for it has been a triumph of their spirit considering the adversities back home. This has to be Afghanistan's greatest achievement on the sporting field. If India beat Australia and the Afghans manage to get the better of Bangladesh in their final Super Eight match, the celebrations will continue in the war-torn nation for quite some time.

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