ABU DHABI: India were effectively pushed out of the T20 World Cup on Sunday as New Zealand defeated Afghanistan by eight wickets.
New Zealand thus became the remaining semi-finalist to qualify from Group 2 after Pakistan. Chasing a modest 125, skipper Kane Williamson (40) and Devon Conway (36) put on an unbeaten stand of 68 to drive the team home in 18.1 overs in Abu Dhabi. The Kiwis join Pakistan as the two teams in the semi-finals from Group 2 with eight points each, leaving India’s final match against Namibia on Monday a dead rubber.
England and Australia had already made the semi-finals from Group 1. Pakistan defeated Scotland by 72 runs on the back of magnificent half-centuries from Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik on Sunday to set up a Twenty20 World Cup semi-final clash against Australia.
Skipper Babar scored a polished 47-ball-66 for his 24th fifty in Twenty20 internationals, and his fourth in five matches, while Malik smashed an 18-ball 54 not out as Pakistan posted 189-4 in their 20 overs.
Scotland were never in the hunt as they managed 117-6 with Richie Berrington fighting a lone hand during his 37-ball 54 not out with four boundaries and a six. The victory gave Pakistan five wins in as many games, topping Group 2 with ten points. They now face Australia in the second semi-final in Dubai on Thursday.
England will face New Zealand in the first semi-final in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. "Shoaib, the way he finished, the way he showed his experience, that's what he's known for," said Babar of his 39-year-old teammate. "We'll carry good confidence into the semi-finals and try to play in the same way. Definitely, Dubai is one of the best stadiums. As a player, if you play in front of a whole crowd that cheers for you, your confidence increases."
Scotland lost skipper Kyle Coetzer (nine), Matthew Cross (five) and George Munsey (17) before they crossed fifty and it was left to Berrington and Micheal Leask (14) to add 46 for the fifth wicket. But the asking rate continued to mount as spinner Shadab Khan (2-14) kept up the pressure. Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf and Hasan Ali claimed a wicket each.
"I thought we bowled really well today, especially in the powerplay," said Coetzer whose team lost all five Super 12 games but defeated Bangladesh in the qualifying round. "When you've got the power in the batting line-up like Pakistan you know that they are going to find the boundaries at some stage, but I thought our guys fought really hard today."
Earlier, Babar had set the platform with another fine knock. Malik then punished the Scottish attack during his fiery knock comprising six hits over the fence and one boundary, taking 26 off Chris Greaves´s last over.
Babar smashed five boundaries and three sixes to become the tournament's highest run-scorer, passing England's Jos Buttler's 240 in five matches with 264 in as many games. He holed out to spinner Greaves in the 18th over as Pakistan lifted the scoring rate, adding 129 in the last ten overs and an incredible 77 in the final five.
Babar and Mohammad Rizwan (15) had put on a slow 35 for the opening stand. Rizwan, when on five, broke West Indian Chris Gayle's record for most runs in Twenty20 cricket in a calendar year. Rizwan now has 1,676 runs in 41 matches. Gayle had notched 1,665 in 36 matches in 2015. Mohammad Hafeez scored a brisk 19-ball 31 with four boundaries and a six.
Earlier, in New Zealand defeat Afghanistan match, left-arm quick Trent Boult returned figures of 3-17 from his four overs and was ably supported by Tim Southee, who took two wickets, to restrict Afghanistan to 124-8.
Najibullah Zadran played a lone hand with his 48-ball 73 to give the Afghanistan total some respectability after they elected to bat first.
New Zealand's pace bowlers rattled the opposition´s top order with quick strikes as Adam Milne sent back Mohammad Shahzad caught behind for four in his first over.
Boult got going from the other end to get Hazratullah Zazai out for two and Southee trapped Rahmanullah Gurbaz lbw for six as Afghanistan slipped to 19-3.
Zadran counter-attacked with a handful of boundaries including two off Jimmy Neesham but soon took to defence after losing his partner Gulbadin Naib for 15. Naib dragged a wide delivery from Kiwi leg-spinner Ish Sodhi onto his stumps. Skipper Mohammad Nabi joined Zadran at the crease as the duo attempted to push the scoring against the spinners and singled out Mitchell Santner for runs.
The left-handed Zadran smashed Santner for two sixes and later got to his 50 in a 33 balls. It was his second fifty in this T20 World Cup and sixth overall.
Southee broke the 59-run partnership, seeing off Nabi for 14. Boult got the key scalp of Zadran with Neesham taking a good diving catch in the deep and the Afghans struggled to get runs in the final overs.
New Zealand remained clinical in their modest chase with Martin Gutptill and Daryl Mitchell mixing their singles and twos with occasional boundaries.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman struck with the wicket of Mitchell, caught behind for 17. Spin king Rashid Khan then sent back Guptill bowled for 28 to bag his 400th wicket in T20 matches. But Williamson stood firm with Conway who joined his skipper for a smooth partnership that steered the team home. The left-hand Conway smashed four boundaries and the winning runs in his 32-ball knock.
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