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India, Afghanistan into cricket's Twenty20 World Cup semifinals after a dramatic Super Eight finale

GROS ISLET, St. Lucia (AP) — Afghanistan edged Bangladesh to reach the Twenty20 World Cup semifinals for the first time and followed India into the last four following a combination of results that eliminated 2021 champion Australia on Monday.

Captain Rohit Sharma bludgeoned 92 off 41 balls to lead India to a 24-run win over Australia in St. Lucia.

Afghanistan advanced when it beat Bangladesh by eight runs with seven balls remaining in a thrilling, rain-affected match at Kingstown, St. Vincent, to conclude the Super Eight stage.

At times in the match the fate of the Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Australia teams all hung in the balance, with all three in semifinals contention depending on the result.

But it was finally Afghanistan that went through to a semifinal Wednesday against South Africa. Unbeaten India will play defending champion England on Thursday.

Sharma posted this tournament’s fastest half-century — off 19 deliveries — and finished with eight sixes and seven boundaries as India plundered 205-5.

Travis Head kept Australia in the chase with a blistering 76 off 43 balls, but his teammates choked against spinners Kuldeep Yadav (2-24) and Axar Patel (1-21) to be restricted at 181-7.

“It’s quite satisfying, especially when you play like that,” Sharma said. “We don’t want to do anything different (in the semifinals), we want to play the same way, understand what the individuals need to do in a given situation, and play freely.”

Sharma set the tone when he smashed Mitchell Starc's second over for 29 runs, including three sixes.

Virat Kohli was out for his second duck in the tournament, caught at midwicket off a Josh Hazlewood short ball. Kohli has just 66 runs in six games but fellow veteran Sharma was held back only by a five-minute rain delay.

“The 50s and 100s don’t matter, I wanted to bat with the same tempo and carry on," Sharma said. "You want to make the bowlers think where the next shot is coming, and I think I managed to do that.”

In total, 76 of his runs came from boundaries and sixes. He became the first batter to hit 200 sixes in T20 internationals, and he also passed Kohli (4,103) and Pakistan’s Babar Azam (4,145) as the leading scorer in international cricket's shortest format.

Sharma had the first century of this tournament in sight before he was undone by Starc’s yorker in the 12th over.

But middle-order batters Suryakumar Yadav (31), Shivam Dube (28) and Hardik Pandya (27) ensured India of the joint highest total against Australia in men's T20 World Cup history.

Only Hazlewood (1-14) bowled at the right lengths in his four overs.

Australia lost David Warner in Arshdeep Singh’s (3-37) first over, but Head and captain Mitchell Marsh (37) counterpunched with a brisk 81-run, second-wicket stand.

Patel's brilliant one-handed catch removed Marsh, and Yadav bowled Glenn Maxwell on 20 in the 14th over.

After Head was deceived by Jasprit Bumrah's slower ball, Australia’s challenge fizzled out.

“It’s disappointing,” Marsh said. “India got the better of us … we’ve seen for 15 years what Rohit Sharma can do in that kind of mood, and he got off to an absolute flier.”

Afghanistan qualifies

Afghanistan batted first and made what seemed an inadequate 115-5 in a match it had to win to reach the semifinals for the first time.

Then in a dramatic second innings with rain hovering and three nations gripped by the action, Bangladesh fell short in a hectic effort to surpass Afghanistan’s total in 12.1 overs — which would have sent it into the semifinals.

Afghanistan’s victory was finally sealed when the last Bangladesh wicket fell with the total 105 at 1:10 a.m. local time. Few dared leave the ground as they were gripped until the end by the action and the kaleidoscope of changing fortunes.

Rain interrupted the match on four occasions, adding more drama and bringing revised targets into play.

In an breath-taking finish to the Super Eight stage, there were four main scenarios. If Afghanistan won it would go through. If it rained and the match ended without a result, Afghanistan also would progress.

A Bangladesh win would end Afghanistan’s campaign and send Australia through. But if Bangladesh won within 12.1 overs it would go through on net run-rate and both Afghanistan and Australia would go home.

When Afghanistan made only 115 after choosing to bat, all of those scenario’s remained in play. Rain eventually reduced the chase to 114 from 19 overs.

Naveen-ul-Haq dismissed Taskin Ahmed and Mustafizur Rahman with the last two balls of the 18th over to clinch the match and finish with 4-26. Litton Das carried his bat and finished 54 not out for Bangladesh.

“We have worked so hard over the past few years and we were dreaming and we were waiting for this day,” Naveen said. “When that day comes and it happens, it’s a surreal experience."

As he spoke, the Afghanistan players carried their captain Rashid Khan around the field as rain fell.

“It’s a massive celebration back home. In this World Cup, I think the country will be very proud,” Rashid said in a later TV interview. “I’m so happy the way we’ve delivered as a team.”

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AP cricket: https://apnews.com/hub/cricket