Australia’s fate in English hands at T20 World Cup

ADELAIDE (AP): New Zealand and England were the major winners from a game neither of them took part in at the Twenty20 World Cup on Friday as Australia ended up beating Afghanistan by only four runs.

New Zealand, which earlier defeated Ireland by 35 runs, secured its semifinal spot because Australia needed a crushing win to match the Kiwis. New Zealand’s run-rate of 2.113 makes it the favorite to finish atop Group 1 ahead of England and Australia.

England was also smiling as it will advance if it beats Sri Lanka in Sydney on Saturday, with the added satisfaction of knocking out rival Australia.

It could have been even worse for the hosts but Marcus Stoinis held his nerve in the final over to give Australia a hard-earned win.

Glenn Maxwell’s 54 not out off 32 balls helped Australia to 168-8 after being asked to bat. Afghanistan smashed its way to 164-7 in reply with Rashid Khan scoring 48 not out off 23 balls. Khan needed to score 22 off the last six balls but Stoinis was able to restrict him, and Afghanistan, to 17.

Australia looked dejected at the end of the game with its players knowing they needed to restrict Afghanistan to 106 or less to earn a higher net run-rate than England.

Now Australia’s net run-rate is minus 0.173. With seven points from four games, it climbed to second spot over England but its fate is no longer in its own hands.

New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson posted a half century and his spinners checked Ireland’s scoring rate. Williamson scored 61 off 35 balls as New Zealand reached 185-6 after being sent in to bat, his innings negating Ireland pace bowlers Josh Little’s hat trick — only the second of this tournament.

Ireland was restricted to 150-9 in reply, with Lockie Ferguson taking 3-22 for New Zealand while spinners Mitchell Santner (2-26) and Ish Sodhi (2-31) took key wickets at the top of the order.