CWC : Centurion Ibrahim Zadran carries bat through, lifts Afghanistan to 291/5

Mumbai, Nov 7 (UNI) Acceleration in the death overs lifted Afghanistan to a strong total at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup at Wankhede Stadium here on Tuesday.

A splendid century for Ibrahim Zadran (129*), sturdy knocks from the middle-order batsmen, and a hefty charge by the lower-order helped Afghanistan get to their highest Cricket World Cup score.

Afghanistan were off to a characteristically solid start, courtesy of Ibrahim Zadran and Rahmanullah Gurbaz. The batsmen didn’t give many chances to Australia, and maintained a healthy run rate.

Australia found the breakthrough when Gurbaz played an unusually aggressive shot off Josh Hazlewood and gifted a catch to Mitchell Starc.

The third-wicket stand between Zadran and Rahmat Shah kept the runs flowing. While Zadran took on the loose deliveries offered to him, Rahmat got his eye in before picking up the pace.

However, one aggressive shot too many, got the better of Rahmat. The batsman played an inside out shot off Glenn Maxwell but didn’t make the best of connections. He ended up holing out to Hazlewood in the deep.

Afghanistan played safe after the middle over mark, adding runs at a rate of 4.3 between 26-35. Mitchell Starc brought forth the next big act in the game, shattering the stumps of Shahidi.

Azmatullah Omarzai’s arrival at the crease gave the Asian side a much needed boost, as the youngster unleashed a number of attractive shots.

His big hitting eventually became his undoing as the batter was caught at long-off off the bowling of Adam Zampa in the 43rd over. Ibrahim eventually reached his hundred in the 44th over, a first for Afghanistan in a Cricket World Cup. He picked up his pace thereafter.

Cameos from Mohammed Nabi (12 from 10) and Rashid Khan (35* from 18) helped Afghanistan finish strong.

At the toss, Shahidi called it right and chose to bat first. For the Asian side, Naveen-ul-Haq returned to replace Fazalhaq Farooqi.

The return of Mitchell Marsh and Glenn Maxwell boosted Australia. Steve Smith, however, missed out due to vertigo issues.

Australia’s hopes of qualifying look set to be boosted with the likely availability of key players Mitch Marsh and Glenn Maxwell after the pair missed the victory over England on Saturday, though it would leave Pat Cummins’ side with a selection dilemma as they try and squeeze all their stars into the XI.

Australia can book their spot in the knockout stages with a victory over Afghanistan at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

A sixth win on the trot would also ensure that Australia will finish second or third in the standings and set up a mouth-watering semifinal clash with South Africa.

Afghanistan have their hopes in their own hands as victory in both of their two remaining matches would lock in their own semi-final spot, but their first step in that plan will not be simple with a tough encounter against an in-form Australia.

But Hashmatullah Shahidi’s side are also in ominous form and can carry confidence into the crunch clash following three consecutive victories that have breathed life into their campaign.

While Afghanistan will be all out to secure a rousing triumph over the five-time champions, their semi-finals dream would still be alive even in defeat though they would then need to rely on net run rates and other results going their way.

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