Riding on a wonderful bowling performance by their experienced pace attack, New Zealand beat Afghanistan by eight wickets in their fifth and last Super 12s match of the ongoing T20 World Cup to book their place in the semifinals.
The result eliminated not only their Afghan opponents but also pre-tournament favourites and cricketing powerhouse India, where the knives have already come out as the blame game ensued over what will be seen as nothing less than a debacle.
The eyes of the entire Indian nation were on this match in Abu Dhabi, where the pitch has offered a bit for the seam bowlers all tournament.
A win for Afghanistan would have meant a possible 3-way tie on points in the semifinals race, but favouring India who play Namibia tomorrow in the last match of the Super 12 phase. But Mohammad Nabi's side failed to trouble a New Zealand side who completed the job at hand with ruthless efficiency, rendering the India-Namibia game meaningless, except for pride.
It was Afghanistan's third defeat in the five matches they played in the Super 12s, while it was the fourth win for New Zealand. From this group, Pakistan were the first team to qualify to the semifinals with four straight wins. They take on Scotland in their last Super 12s clash tonight.
It means all four semifinalists have had to win four games to qualify. South Africa, in Group 2, missed out despite four wins.
On Sunday, Afghanistan won the toss in Abu Dhabi and opted to bat first. They lost three batters inside the powerplay while facing the quality pace attack of New Zealand. The first three wickets of Afghanistan were taken by three New Zealand pacers.
Najibullah Zadran, who came to bat at number five, posted a huge 73 off 48 balls with six fours and three sixes. But the other batters were not able to accompany him. Afghanistan were kept down at 124 for eight.
For New Zealand, Trent Boult bagged three wickets conceding 17 runs in four overs while Tim Southee took two for 24 in four overs.
In reply, losing Martin Guptill and Daryl Mitchell for 28 and 17 respectively, New Zealand chased down the target of 125 in 18.1 overs and sealed the match with eight wickets in hand.
Kane Williamson and wicketkeeper-batter Devon Conway were unbeaten for 40 and 36 respectively.
This win helped New Zealand top the points table in Group 2. They now have a better run rate, +1.16, than Pakistan’s +1.06. Both these themes have secured eight points each. However, Pakistan will get a chance to surpass them as they still have a match to play against Scotland.
With one match to play, India and Namibia have secured four and two points respectively. Scotland are the only team in this group who are yet to secure any points.
The result of the match between Pakistan and Scotland will determine who are the champions of Group 2, and according to that, the semifinals line-up will be finalized.
Meanwhile, England and Australia have secured the semifinals berths. Both these teams have earned eight points each. South Africa had also secured eight points, but Australia overpowered them by a better run rate.
The first semifinal of this T20 World Cup will take place on November 10 while the second will be played on November 11. The final will be played on November 14 in Dubai.