T20 World Cup: ‘Thank God we at last beat Australia’, says Naib after Afghanistan’s epic triumph

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IANS

Kingstown, June 23: Pace all-rounder Gulbadin Naib, who took the Player-of-the-Match award in Afghanistan’s historic 21-run win over Australia in the Super Eights stage of 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup, said he was elated and relieved over his side finally beating their much-fancied opponents in international cricket.

At the Arnos Vale Stadium, Naib became the game-changer for Afghanistan though his spell of 4-20, where he bowled his four overs without any interruption. He took out Marcus Stoinis and Tim David, before getting the all-important wicket of Glenn Maxwell for 59 in the 14th over to end Australia’s hopes of winning the game.

The result means Afghanistan are still in the race to enter the semi-finals, and opens up Group 1 incredibly. The epic win also is very sweet for Afghanistan, who dealt with two heartbreaks previously while facing Australia in World Cups.

In the 2022 T20 World Cup, Afghanistan fell short of beating Australia by just one runs and in the 2023 ODI World Cup, their hopes of a win were dashed by a cramping and one-legged Maxwell making an unbeaten 200.

“Thank god we at last beat Australia. It’s a great achievement for our cricket in Afghanistan. If you look at history of our cricket, it is not much. Last ten years, we achieved a lot of goals. This is a big achievement.

“We played very good cricket and in the first round we beat New Zealand. Then (to beat) Australia is not easy. They are a world champion team and it is a big achievement for our cricket. We can carry this to the next level. Our journey starts now. We are very lucky to have such a staff and management,” said Naib after the match.

Naib also paid gratitude to captain Rashid Khan for trusting his bowling skills again in a crucial juncture of the game. “We were waiting (for this win) for a long time. It’s a great moment not just for me but for my nation and my people.

“(It is a) big achievement for our cricket. I have no words to say but thanks to the fans for supporting our career and cricket journey. It’s a great teamwork, we worked hard for the last two months and the result is in front of you.”

Rashid was also glad that Afghanistan got third time lucky in beating Australia in World Cups, which he described as a great feeling and hoped for their loyal fans back home to be proud of the side.

“It’s a massive win for us as a team and as a nation. In the World Cup, beating champions is a great feeling. It’s something we missed in last two years – in 2023 World Cup and also in 2022 in Australia where we lacked some runs.

“It is so much important for us home and for everyone and all over the world where Afghans are there. They were badly missing this win. I am sure they would be proud of this and would have enjoyed the game. It is just the beginning for us, big game next and we have all the chances of making the semis.”

In the batting, Afghanistan were propelled by Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran putting on an opening stand of 118 runs, before crumbling in the fag end of their innings to end up on 148/6, as Pat Cummins took another hat-trick.

Rashid felt Afghanistan having the services of eight bowlers made things easy for them to bowl out Australia for 127 in 19.2 overs.

“The thought was although we didn’t finish as well as we would have liked to, but this is how this wicket is. The more important thing was that the opening partnership gave us the best start. That let us get to a total we had in mind.

“We all watched two games before, and on this wicket anything 130-plus we said we were capable of defending. We keep calm and have that belief. The beauty of this team is having too many allrounders gives you options. As a captain, it makes it easy,” he said.

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