Hosts and holders Australia saw off a stubborn Afghanistan by four runs in Adelaide on Friday in their final Super 12 match and sit second in Group 1, level with table-toppers New Zealand on seven points.
Only the top two reach the semi-finals.
However, England are yet to play their last game and victory for them over Asian champions Sri Lanka at the Sydney Cricket Ground will see them through — at the expense of their Ashes rivals.
Glenn Maxwell‘s 32-ball 54 lifted Australia to 168-8 in the face of an effervescent Afghan bowling attack in what was a must-win match for the home side at the Adelaide Oval.
Rashid Khan blazed an unbeaten 48 off 23 balls to make a fist of the chase for the winless Afghans and ensure a nervy end for the majority of the crowd.
Australia’s World Cup fate is now out of their own hands, having won three matches, had one washed out by rain and suffered a damaging 89-run thumping in their opener against New Zealand.
“We probably haven’t put a complete game together,” said man of the match Maxwell.
“There was a couple of games last year during the World Cup where we probably did.
“Almost back-to-back, there were clinical performances. We did the game quickly and we were pretty sharp in all areas of the game.
A narrow win for Australia keeps their net run rate in the negative! 👀If England beat Sri Lanka tomorrow, the hos… https://t.co/D8oCTUnbj1
— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) 1667562661000
“We’ve probably missed a few opportunities so far this year.”
He added: “I think that’s probably just the disappointment — we haven’t been able to show how we feel like we can play as a group.”
Australia’s mouthwatering clash with England last week in Melbourne was washed out, but Maxwell said there was no point dwelling on that — a win would have left England with nowhere to go.
England opener Alex Hales said earlier Friday that they would not be taking Sri Lanka lightly, but his side are in buoyant mood.
“I guess we’re pretty confident that whatever we need to do, we’ve got the skills and firepower to do it,” he said.
In the earlier game of a double-header at the Adelaide Oval, New Zealand — beaten in last year’s final by Australia — were comfortable winners over Ireland by 35 runs.
Man of the match Kane Williamson found form at last with the bat to propel his side to 185-6 and the New Zealand bowlers then kept Ireland down to 150-9.
Williamson’s 35-ball 61 was his first half-century of the tournament.
His knock came to an end at the hands of Irish bowler Joshua Little, who went on to claim a hat-trick, but the damage was already done by then.
Skipper Williamson said their defeat last time out to England had spurred them on.
“There was some good stuff in the England game, and they’re a good team, and they played better than us on the day,” said the captain.
“So coming here, it was clearly a game that we would like to have played well in, and it was nice we were able to put together a really good team performance and get across the line today.”
Victory over the Irish, who had forged a reputation as giant-killers after stunning the West Indies and England, allowed New Zealand to sit back and watch Australia and England squabble over second place.
“It’s nice because we have a few days now and guys will be able to just relax,” he said.
“Tomorrow observe what’s happening in the other matches and see how it goes.”