Afghanistan down PNG to reach Super Eight, end NZ hopes

AFP / Marco Bello

The Afghans had already effectively eliminated New Zealand after defeating them by 84 runs in Georgetown, and on Thursday, they confirmed that they pose a threat to any opponent with another accomplished all-round display.

Spearheaded by standout left-arm seamer Fazalhaq Farooqi, the Afghan bowlers kept opponents under 100 runs for the third time in their three matches in the tournament, dismissing the Papuans, who had four batsmen run out for 95.

Penetrating bowling from Alei Nao and Semo Kamea on a lively surface ensured the run chase was not straightforward, but Gulbadin Naib's 49 from 36 deliveries steered the Afghans safely to their target at 101-3 inside 16 overs.

"I want to congratulate all the people of Afghanistan because we have now officially qualified for the Super Eight, and I feel proud," said Farooqi, who was named Player of the Match for his 3-16.

"We just keep it simple and give 100%."

After Rashid Khan had won the toss and opted to field first, his opposite number Assad Vala was the first man dismissed, run out for three after committing the elementary error of making his ground but leaving his bat in the air.

Farooqi, the tournament's leading wicket-taker, increased his tally by two from consecutive balls, and Naveen-ul-Haq struck immediately from the other end to reduce Papua New Guinea to 17 for four.

Rashid and his left-arm wrist-spinning partner Noor Ahmad took over after the power play, consistently bamboozling the batsmen as they swung hopefully but ineffectually at the ball.

The result was a second run out with both batsmen stranded at the same end, and it was Chad Soper (9) who was forced to leave.

A third run out followed when Norman Vanua departed for a duck when his bat got stuck in the pitch as he tried to slide it past the crease.

Kiplin Doriga offered some resistance, hitting two fours to reach 27, but almost inevitably, the innings ended with a final runout when Semo Kamea (2) was stranded with a ball remaining.

Papua New Guinea struck swiftly, dismissing openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz (11) and Ibrahim Zadran (0), who had shared century partnerships against Uganda and New Zealand.

But Naib and Mohammad Nabi calmed their team's nerves by rotating the strike with a series of quick singles, taking Afghanistan past the 50 mark when they began to play more expansively, Naib ending the match in style with a six.

The Afghans progressed along with co-hosts West Indies, who they meet in their final round-robin match in St Lucia on Monday to decide who tops Group C.

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