Afghanistan erupts in celebration as team reaches T20 World Cup semifinal

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KABUL, Afghanistan -Zikria, a 30-year-old resident of Kabul, stayed up after predawn prayers to watch Afghanistan’s ICC T20 World Cup 2024 virtual knockout match against Bangladesh.

Four and a half hours and several rain interruptions later, Afghanistan edged out Bangladesh in a thrilling contest, securing their maiden semifinal appearance in the tournament.

Afghan fans gather to watch the ICC T20 Cricket World Cup 2024 super eight match between Afghanistan and Bangladesh

“I kept praying for Afghanistan throughout the match,” Zikria told media. “I am proud of my team, my captain Rashid Khan, and all the support staff.”

Shortly after Naveenul Haq dismissed Mustafizur Rahman to secure Afghanistan’s place in the semifinals, celebrations erupted across the cricket-mad Asian country.

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‘Praying to win the final’

Fans, mostly men, poured into the streets and city centres to cheer their team.

The win was hailed by the Taliban government that took power in the country after the withdrawal of US forces nearly three years ago.

Cricket is by far the most popular sport in the country that often brings joy to the people of Afghanistan which witnessed almost four decades of war as well as economic and political instability.

Afghanistan’s win also knocked out former champions Australia, who have twice pulled out of a bilateral series against Afghanistan men’s team citing “deteriorating human rights for women and girls in the country under Taliban rule” but still went ahead against them in ICC events.

Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi congratulated Rashid and his team in a video posted by the Afghanistan Cricket Board on X.

Muttaqi spoke to Rashid over a video call and the beaming captain received his felicitations.

Abdullah, a 20-year-old fan from Kabul, said the win was a “dream come true” for him.

“I cannot express my feelings right now, I am overwhelmed,” the visibly emotional fan said a few hours after the match had ended. “Now, we are hoping and praying to win the final.”

Afghanistan have never made it to the knockout stage of any ICC World Cup. Until now, their best finish in the T20 World Cup had been reaching the second round three times. They are yet to progress past the first round in the 50-over World Cup.

 

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