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Afghanistan's captain Rashid Khan (left) celebrates his team's win of against Australa during the Super Eight stage of the Twenty20 World Cup. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Afghanistan have been the giant-killer in world cricket over the last year, beating almost all top nations, including Pakistan, England, and Sri Lanka in the 50-over World Cup in India late last year. In this Twenty20 World Cup in the West Indies, they have also shocked New Zealand and Australia.

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This has provided a big twist to the tale, leaving the 2021 Twenty20 champions and current world champions in the 50-over and Test formats in danger of losing their spot in the semi-finals.

Australians have great resilience in bouncing back from the brink and can stun their opponents in adverse conditions. You can’t write Australia off at any time when they are still around on a cricket pitch. However, they face a big challenge in the form of India when both teams meet in a few hours at Gros Islet in St. Lucia.

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Afghanistan pacer Gulbadin Naib celebrates the dismissal of Glenn Maxwell during their Super Eight clash. Image Credit: AFP

India vs Australia showdown

The Men in Blue, who have maintained an unbeaten record in this World Cup, will do everything in their capacity to move into the semi-finals on a winning note. However, it was Australia who ended Rohit Sharma-led team’s stunning 10-match winning streak in the 50-over World Cup final in Ahmedabad in November last year.

Australia will be fancying their chances to beat India again, which will keep them in the hunt for a semi-final spot and hope to see the other contest between Afghanistan and Bangladesh go in their favour.

Australia have a superior run-rate to Afghanistan, and a simple win will be enough to strengthen their chances, leaving Afghanistan with the big task of beating Bangladesh by a better margin to improve their negative run-rate when both teams meet at 4:30am on Tuesday (UAE time).

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India are in pole position to book a place in the semi-finals after an easy win over Bangladesh on Saturday. Image Credit: ANI

Afghanistan’s challenge

However, should India avenge their loss to Australia in their final Group 1 Super Eight contest, then Afghanistan could afford to lose but need to improve their run-rate, which could allow them to sneak through. Rashid Khan’s men are flying high, and after defeating Australia, they must be fancying their chances against Bangladesh.

There could be a different scenario. The contest between India and Australia is facing a rain threat, which could give Australia just one point and take them ahead of Afghanistan, which will leave the Afghans in a must-win situation against Bangladesh. Should Afghanistan beat Bangladesh, the Asian underdogs will sail through to the semi-finals with four points, while Australia will be left with three.

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Even India are in danger of losing their spot in the semi-finals. A big loss to India and a thumping win for Afghanistan could allow both Australia and Afghanistan to move into the semi-finals, but the chances of overturning such a big run-rate in a Twenty20 game are rather slim.

Afghanistan relies heavily on their openers to give them a good start, barring which they have been struggling in batting. Bangladesh will be eager to get the early wicket. But with both teams almost on even strength, Afghanistan should be able to move ahead.

South Africa’s triumph

The day began with South Africa edging out hosts West Indies by three wickets in a rain-affected thriller in Antigua. It’s been an interesting tournament for South Africa, who have shown that they can win close games. It’s the third occasion, after defeating Bangladesh and Nepal in close contests, that the Proteas have proven they are no longer the chokers and have demonstrated their mental strength to come out unscathed under pressure. The loss has ended the West Indies’ amazing return to world cricket, leaving Caribbean fans with mixed feelings as both England and South Africa book the two spots in the semi-finals in Group 2.

It’s going to be an interesting next 24 hours, promising plenty of thrills and number crunching.