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T20 World Cup: New Zealand beat Ireland by 35 runs

New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson posted a half century and his spinners checked Ireland’s scoring rate in a 35-run win Friday that gave the Black Caps a strong chance of securing a semifinal spot at the Twenty20 World Cup.

Williamson scored 61 off 35 balls as New Zealand reached 185-6 after being sent in to bat, his innings negating Ireland pace bowlers Josh Little’s hat trick — only the second of this tournament, AP reports.

Ireland was restricted to 150-9 in reply, with Lockie Ferguson taking 3-22 for New Zealand while spinners Mitchell Santner (2-26) and Ish Sodhi (2-31) took key wickets at the top of the order.

New Zealand has seven points from five games and its high net run-rate of 2.113 makes it favorite to finish atop Group 1 ahead of England and Australia.

The Australians were without skipper Aaron Finch for their last Super 12 game against Afghanistan later Friday, when they needed to win by a big margin to improve their chances of qualification. England will play Sri Lanka in Sydney on Saturday.

Afghanistan won the toss and opted to field. Matthew Wade was leading Australia in the absence of Finch, who was ruled out with a hamstring injury.

New Zealand started against Ireland knowing it needed a win to keep its chances of advancing alive.

Fabian Allen made a rapid star, scoring 32 off 18 balls including five boundaries and a six.

Allen put on 52 off 35 balls in an opening stand with Devon Conway (28), who later added another 44 runs with Williamson for the second wicket.

Williamson accelerated in the second half of the innings, hitting five fours and three sixes overall. He reached his half-century off 32 balls.

“I was just trying to build partnerships. The openers set up the total. The spinners bowled brilliantly to help us win the game,” Williamson said.

Little changed the complexion of New Zealand’s innings in the 19th over, when he dismissed Williamson, Jimmy Neesham and Santner in succession to claim a hat-trick.

It was only the second hat-trick in this tournament after Karthik Meiyappan’s feat against Sri Lanka in the preliminary round.

Daryl Mitchell scored 31 not out off 21 balls to propel his side to a par-plus score.

In reply, Ireland raced to 68-1 in 8.1 overs. Andrew Balbirnie (30) and Paul Stirling (37) made quick starts, hitting three fours and four sixes between them.

New Zealand’s spin attack brought it back into the game, with Sodhi bowling Stirling to really turn the game in the 10th over and then dismissing No. 3 Lorcan Tucker (13) in the 15th.

Santner took the first wicket when he bowled Balbirnie and having Harry Tector (2) caught at point as Ireland was reduced to 94-4 in 13.1 overs.

George Dockrell scored 23 off 15. None of the last five Irish batters reached double digits.