NZ in semifinals after beating Afghanistan; India eliminated

New Zealand's captain Kane Williamson reacts while batting during the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup match between New Zealand and Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Kane Williamson and Devon Conway thwarted Afghanistan’s spinners as New Zealand booked the last spot in the semifinals at the T20 World Cup with a dominant eight-wicket victory on Sunday.

The win eliminated pre-tournament favorite India, which needed an upset win by Afghanistan against the Black Caps to have a chance of getting into the semifinals from Group 2.

New Zealand’s pace attack, led by Trent Boult (3-17) and Tim Southee (2-24), set up the big win by restricting Afghanistan to 124-8 after Williamson lost the toss and was asked to field.

Williamson made an unbeaten 40 and Convoy scored 36 not out as both batsmen saw through the spin threat of Rashid Khan (1-27) and Mujeeb Ur Rahman (1-31) with a match-winning stand of 68 and carried New Zealand to 125-2 with 11 balls to spare.

“Strong performance,” Williamson said after the game. “We know how dangerous this Afghanistan side is. Nice for us to be able to set the tone with the ball, take wickets early and then keep them to below-par total.”

Boult had the wicket of Hazratullah Zazai for just two in his second over, but the leftarm fast bowler thwarted Afghan hopes of a challenging total in his return spell by removing top-scorer Najibullah Zadran (73) and Karim Janat.

Gulbadin Naib (15) and captain Mohammad Nabi (14) got off the mark, but New Zealand wisely used pace more than its two spinners to pin down Afghanistan.

Mujeeb, who didn’t play the last two games due to a leg injury, gave Afghanistan an early breakthrough when he had Daryl Mitchell caught behind. Then, Rashid picked up his 400th wicket in T20s when he clean bowled Guptill off a missed sweep shot but that’s all Afghanistan could muster in the field as Williamson and Conway took New Zealand home with ease.

“On this kind of pitch, this is not a decent total,” Nabi said. “We tried our best with the ball, (overall) we played good cricket in the tournament and we will take a lot of positives. We need to correct the mistakes we made with the bat.”

Afghanistan finished the tournament with two wins from five games, with the victories coming against Namibia and Scotland.

New Zealand adjusted well and won four games in a row after losing to Pakistan in their opening group game — a run that included an eight-wicket win over India. The Black Caps faced perhaps the toughest schedule, playing their last three games at three different venues in the oppressive afternoon heat of the United Arab Emirates.

Pakistan beat Scotland by 72 runs in their last group match later Sunday to remain the only unbeaten team in the tournament and finished top of Group 2. New Zealand secured second place in the group and takes on Group 1 winner England in the first semifinal at Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. In the other semifinal match, Pakistan plays Australia at Dubai on Thursday.