Berliner Tageblatt - Afghanistan braced for 'massive' T20 World Cup semi-final

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Afghanistan braced for 'massive' T20 World Cup semi-final
Afghanistan braced for 'massive' T20 World Cup semi-final / Photo: © AFP

Afghanistan braced for 'massive' T20 World Cup semi-final

Afghanistan's remarkable journey at the T20 World Cup will take another "massive" step forward on Wednesday when they face South Africa in the first semi-final at the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba.

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It is an intriguing encounter which will produce a first-time finalist to take on either 2007 winners India or defending champions England who meet in the second semi-final at Guyana's Providence Stadium on Thursday.

Celebrations in Afghanistan after Monday's Super Eight win over Bangladesh had ensured their passage at the expense of Australia were quickly closed down by the Taliban authorities.

But there may well be many more people on the streets if Rashid Khan can lead his team to the final with a win over the Proteas.

"I think the semi-final is going to be a massive, massive inspiration for the youngsters back home in Afghanistan," said skipper Rashid. "It's an unbelievable feeling."

It is appropriate the Afghans will play in a stadium bearing Lara's name because, as Rashid said, the former West Indies great was "the only person who mentioned Afghanistan will be in semis".

"I think when you get the kind of great, great statements from a legend, as a team, I think it gives you lots of energy as well," said Rashid.

"We are capable -- but as long we keep the things very simple and I think in the whole competition so far, we kept the thing simple."

South Africa won the 1998 Champions Trophy but have a history of stumbling in the semi-finals of previous white ball World Cups.

They made it to the final four this time with seven wins in seven matches but they have been pushed to the limit, beating England, Bangladesh and Nepal by seven runs, four runs and one run respectively.

"Obviously most of the games have been a lot closer than we would have personally liked but the amazing thing is that this new Proteas team always seems to get over the line," said left-arm spinner Tabraiz Shamsi.

"We've been put under huge pressure in every single game that we've played and the boys have managed to find a way to win no matter what the situation is, no matter how close the game is.

"That's really pleasing for us as a unit."

- Heavyweight contest -

India have not won a major ICC competition since lifting the 2013 Champions Trophy, increasing the pressure on skipper Rohit Sharma to deliver for the pre-tournament favourites.

The 37-year-old opener was calmness personified, however, as he slammed 92 off 41 balls on Monday to lead the charge against the Australians, resulting in a 24-run win and a modicum of revenge for their defeat to the same opponents in last year's 50-over World Cup on home soil.

Rohit said afterwards that India "don't want to do anything different" in the semi-final againt England.

"We want to play the same way, understand what the individuals need to do in a given situation, and play freely.

"So far we've been doing that consistently, and (in the) semi-finals, we have to try and do the same thing. Nothing changes for us, we want to focus on what we can do as a team, and take the game on."

The English, champions in 2010 and 2022, made a sluggish start to the tournament with a loss to the Australians in the group stage followed by another defeat by the Proteas in the Super Eight.

But they have shown the ability to move up a gear when the situation demands.

"We have to do our homework and make sure we plan well and try to execute, and then make sure we get to the final," said Chris Jordan who took a hat-trick in their last game, a crushing win over USA.

The Surrey all-rounder remained laid-back about the prospect of facing the strength of the Indians.

"You have to beat the best at some point to win the tournament," he said.

The only dampener to the semi-final action is the prospect of rain.

In the case of either match being washed out, the team that finished higher in their respective Super Eight groups will proceed. That would mean an India-South Africa final.