Glenn Maxwell hit an unbeaten half-century to keep Australia in the hunt for the semi-finals of the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup with a tense four-run win over Afghanistan on Friday.
The result ensured New Zealand, who outplayed Ireland in the first match of the day in Adelaide, booked their final-four spot from Group 1.
The hosts and defending champions Australia now need arch-rivals England to lose their final Super 12 match against Sri Lanka on Saturday to make the semis.
Maxwell’s 32-ball 54 lifted Australia to 168-8, a total their bowlers defended by restricting the Afghans to 164-7 at the Adelaide Oval.
Rashid Khan hit an unbeaten 48 off 23 balls to make a fist of the chase and he smashed 16 runs off the final over from Marcus Stoinis to keep the home crowd on edge almost right to the end.
Australia lost skipper Aaron Finch and Tim David to hamstring injuries and dropped pace bowler Mitchell Starc before being invited to bat first.
Naveen-ul-Haq rocked Australia’s top order with the wickets of David Warner, for 28, and the returning Steve Smith, for four, in one over. He returned impressive figures of 3-21.
The left-handed Warner came out firing to smash spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman for three straight boundaries in the second over of the match.
He lost fellow opener Cameron Green off Fazalhaq Farooqi, who took two wickets, in the next over but kept up the attack with Mitchell Marsh, who hit 45 off 30 balls.
Naveen bowled Warner and four balls later the fast bowler trapped Smith lbw.
Marsh attempted to hit back with a six and two fours off Gulbadin Naib but failed to build on it and he fell caught behind to Mujeeb’s mystery spin.
Maxwell and Stoinis, who hit Australia’s fastest T20 50 – in 17 balls – in the win over Sri Lanka, then got going against the Afghan bowlers, only for Rashid Khan to break through.
Stoinis smashed Rashid for a six over mid-wicket but soon departed for 25 as Afghanistan kept chipping away.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz began the reply by dominating the Australian bowlers. He hit Josh Hazlewood for a four and six in the opening over of the chase.
Hazlewood took out Usman Ghani for two and then Gurbaz departed in the third over off Kane Richardson, who replaced Starc for the key clash.
Gulbadin Naib, who hit 39 off 23 balls, attempted to put the chase back on track with a few good hits including a six off Green as Afghanistan reached 72-2 in 10 overs and threatened an upset.
Naib put on a threatening 58-run stand with Ibrahim Zadran, who made 26, but a direct throw from Maxwell in the deep ran out the dangerman at the non-striker’s run.
The wheels then came off the chase with Adam Zampa getting out Ibrahim, for 26, and then Najibullah Zadran in the next three balls.
Rashid, coming in at number eight, fought until the end with three fours and four sixes.
Afghanistan bowed out of the tournament without a win and two washouts.
Kane Williamson stars as New Zealand beat Ireland
Skipper Kane Williamson hit a quickfire half-century to all but take New Zealand into the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup semi-finals as they hammered Ireland by 35 runs on Friday.
Williamson’s 35-ball 61 propelled New Zealand to 185-6 and their bowlers kept Ireland down to 150-9 to top Group 1 with seven points after their final Super 12 match in Adelaide.
Australia, who next play Afghanistan at the same venue, and England can go level on points with New Zealand if they win, but the Black Caps have a far superior net run rate.
Only a mathematical miracle can push last year’s beaten finalists out of the last four now, leaving Australia and England to scrap it out.
“A really good team performance, which was required. We knew what Ireland were capable of, they have played some stunning cricket,” said Williamson.
The captain led from the front, having failed to convert starts in the earlier matches, as New Zealand dominated on a sunny afternoon despite a stunning hat-trick by Ireland fast bowler Joshua Little.
New Zealand were cruising at 174-3 in the 19th over when the left-arm quick removed Williamson, James Neesham and Mitchell Santner on successive balls.
It was the second hat-trick of this edition of the World Cup after Karthik Meiyappan of the United Arab Emirates against Sri Lanka in round one.
Little’s strikes checked New Zealand’s surge, but Williamson, with his first fifty of this tournament, had already put his team on course for a challenging total.
Daryl Mitchell hit an unbeaten 21-ball 31 and put on a key partnership of 60 with Williamson, who was under scrutiny for his slow batting but smashed five fours and three sixes in his 35-ball knock.
Finn Allen and Devon Conway started cautiously against a disciplined Irish bowling attack after being invited to bat first.
Allen broke the shackles in the fourth over as he smashed leg-spinner Gareth Delany for three fours including two on consecutive deliveries.
He kept up the charge and hit a six and four off fast bowler Mark Adair before the bowler got him caught at mid-off on the next ball as the Kiwis reached 52-1 at the end of six overs.
The left-handed Conway found it tough to accelerate despite a couple of boundaries but stood in a 44-run stand with Williamson.
New Zealand lost their way in the middle with Delany taking two wickets including Glenn Phillips for 17, but Williamson soon took charge.
Irish pride in defeat
Paul Stirling (37) and Andrew Balbirnie (30) got the Irish off to a flier in their opening partnership of 68 off 49 balls.
The giant-killing Irish team had taken down two-time champions the West Indies in round one and then shocked England in a rain-hit Super 12 clash.
But Balbirnie chopped one on to his stumps off Santner and fellow spinner Ish Sodhi bowled Stirling in the next over to douse Ireland’s hopes as their chase fell apart.
Fast bowler Lockie Ferguson returned figures of 3-22 after a double strike in his fourth over. Santner, Sodhi and fast bowler Tim Southee took two wickets each.
“We bowled pretty well, but our fielding has been a bit off in the tournament,” said Balbirnie.
“The guys have played really well. We have been happy with the effort.
“We caused a couple of upsets, we are playing better cricket than we were in the last 12 months, everyone is starting to show their class.”