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ICC World Cup 2023: Afghanistan's Journey from ‘Minnows’ to Semifinal Contenders

#CWC23 | #Afghanistan have won over 3 former #WorldCupChampions - #England, #Pakistan & #Sri Lanka in this edition.

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Afghanistan continued their fascinating run in the ICC World Cup 2023 with a thrilling 7-wicket victory over 1996 champions Sri Lanka on Monday at the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Stadium in Pune.

Coming into the 2023 edition of the 50 over World Cup, Afghanistan had recorded only one victory in their previous two editions, but have now won three in six games and with it, have dropped the moniker of "minnows" that they entered the showpiece event with. 

When tournament saw heavyweights like Australia, England, and Sri Lanka falter, the Afghans showed their mettle by winning triumphantly against three former World Cup champions: Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and England.

Now, after trouncing the Lankans, they have also mathematically solidified their contention for the semifinals - with six points and a run rate of -0.718, the Shahidi-led team is now in fifth position in the standings, just two points behind New Zealand and Australia, who are ranked third and fourth, respectively. 

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#CWC23 | #Afghanistan have won over 3 former #WorldCupChampions - #England, #Pakistan & #Sri Lanka in this edition.

Afghanistan and Sri Lankan players greet each other at the end of their ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 match, at the MCA Stadium in Pune, Monday, Oct. 30, 2023. Afghanistan won by 7 wickets.

(Photo: PTI)

So, How Can Afghanistan Make it to the Semis?

With three league stage matches remaining for all 10 teams in the tournament, Afghanistan would need to win all their remaining matches to give themselves the best shot at making the semis.

Currently, the team is at the fifth position in the points table with 6 points from their 3 wins. A win in their remaining matches will get them to 12 points and a likely spot in the semis. But to get there, they have to win their next set of matches - against Netherlands, but also Australia and South Africa who are currently placed fourth and second in the points table.

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#CWC23 | #Afghanistan have won over 3 former #WorldCupChampions - #England, #Pakistan & #Sri Lanka in this edition.
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How Did They Come This Far?

The Afghans have defeated three of the former world champions to pave their way for the semifinals road. Here's a closer look at their epic victories in the tournament thus far:

20 October: Afghanistan beat Sri Lanka by 7 wickets (MCA, Pune)

Afghanistan pulled off an emphatic win over former world champions Sri Lanka by seven wickets at the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Stadium in Pune on Monday, 30 October.

Put in to bat first, Sri Lankan batters could only post 241 runs on the board in 49.3 overs. Pathum Nissanka and skipper Kusal Mendis top scored with the bat with 46 and 39 runs, respectively. For the Afghans, Fazalhaq Farooqi starred with the ball as he clinched four wickets. 

After losing opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz for a duck, Ibrahim Zadran (39) and Rahmat Shah (62) made a steady start in pursuit of the target. Skipper Hasmatullah Shahidi scored a half-century while number 5 batter Azmatullah Omarzai scored 75 and hit the winning runs for the side.

#CWC23 | #Afghanistan have won over 3 former #WorldCupChampions - #England, #Pakistan & #Sri Lanka in this edition.

Afghanistan players celebrate after winning their ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 match against Sri Lanka, at Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune, Monday, Oct. 30, 2023.

Image: PTI

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23 October: Afghanistan beat Pakistan by 8 wickets (MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai)

Afghanistan trounced Pakistan by eight wickets at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on 23 October. This was Afghanistan's first ODI victory over Pakistan in eight matches, and it was also their highest-ever successful chase against the men in green.

Afghanistan, needing 283 runs to defeat Pakistan, got off to a flying start as Rahmanullah Gurbaz(65) and Ibrahim Zadran manufactured a solid 130-run opening stand, with both openers striking fifties, but their partnership ended in the 22nd over. Rahmat Shah then partnered Zadran at the crease and kicked off establish a solid partnership.

Nearing a century, Zadran made 87 runs off 113 balls before Hasan Ali got the better of him. Rahmat then led his team home with six balls remaining after hitting a spectacular fifty and scoring more than ninety runs for the third wicket with captain Hashmatullah Shahidi.

#CWC23 | #Afghanistan have won over 3 former #WorldCupChampions - #England, #Pakistan & #Sri Lanka in this edition.

Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi and Rahmat Shah celebrate after winning the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 match against Pakistan, at MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, Monday, Oct. 23, 2023.

Image: PTI

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Afghanistan vs England, 15 October (Arun Jaitley Stadium, Delhi)

Afghanistan pulled off a major upset against the defending champions England with a 69-run victory at the Arun Jaitley Stadium on Sunday, 15 October.

Afghanistan reached 284 in 49.5 overs thanks to half-centuries smashed by Rahmanullah Gurbaz (80) and Ikram Alikhil(58).

Chasing 285, England kept faltering against the skilful Afghans spinners and in 40.5 overs, Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman bowled England out for 215 after taking three wickets apiece in an outstanding defensive effort.

#CWC23 | #Afghanistan have won over 3 former #WorldCupChampions - #England, #Pakistan & #Sri Lanka in this edition.

Afghanistan's Rashid Khand celebrates with teammate after winning the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 match against England on Oct. 15, 2023.

Image: PTI

Prior to their winning juggernaut, the Afghans suffered three defeats on the trot at the hands of New Zealand, India and Bangladesh. Here's what transpired in those encounters:

18 October: NZ defeat Afghanistan by 149 runs (MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai)

This was Afghanistan’s most upsetting defeat as they lost to the Kiwis by a massive margin of 149 runs. Glenn Philips, Tom Latham and Will Young hit fine half-centuries each and helped the side post a total of 288 runs.

The deadly bowling attack of the Kiwis proved too much for the Afghans when they started their run chase. Trent Boult claimed two wickets, while Mitchell Santner and Lockie Ferguson each claimed three wickets

11 October: India beat Afghanistan by 8 wickets (Arun Jaitley Stadium, Delhi)

In their second match, the Afghans were handed a massive 8-wicket defeat at the hands of hosts India. After choosing to bat first, Afghanistan set up a total of 272 runs with Hasmatullah Shahidi’s knock of 80 and Azamatullah Omarzai’s 62. 

The Indian bowling attack led by Jasprit Bumrah (4 wickets) displayed brilliant bowling effort. Hardik Pandya bagged two wickets while Shardul Thakur finished with one. Chasing the target, skipper Rohit Sharma notched a mammoth 130 runs while compatriot Virat Kohli scored a half-century. 

7 October: Bangladesh beat Afghanistan by 6 wickets (HPCA Stadium, Dharamsala)

In their world cup opener against the Tigers, the Shahidi-led side suffered a 6-wicket defeat. Put in to bat first, only Rahmanullah Gurbaz could pile some runs as he scored 47 off 62 balls. Apart from that, no other batter could even reach 30. The Afghans were eventually bowled out for a meagre total of 156 in 37.2 overs as skipper Shakib Al Hasan and Mehidy Hasan shared three wickets apiece to lead the Afghans out.

For Bangladesh, M. Hasan and Najmul Shanto notched half-centuries each to guide their side to their first and only victory of the tournament so far with 92 balls to spare.

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Afghanistan's Remaining Fixtures in the 2023 ICC World Cup

  • Afghanistan vs Netherlands - 3 November, Ekana Cricket Stadium, Lucknow

  • Afghanistan vs Australia - 7 November, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

  • Afghanistan vs South Africa - 10 November, Narendra Modi Cricket Stadium, Ahmedabad

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