England asserted its dominance over a hapless Afghanistan to claim a massive 116-run win
There was no repeat of the heroics of two nights back, no stirring fightback, no fancy strokeplay. Afghanistan was firmly put in its place as it crashed out of the ICC World Twenty20 2012, crushed by 116 runs by England, which played like the champion side it is.
On Wednesday night, also at the R Premadasa Stadium, Afghanistan had given India a serious run for its money, going down by just 23 runs in a performance that impressed one and all. On Friday, it was competitive only for the first four overs after Nawroz Mangal won his second straight toss and opted to chase again. But once Luke Wright decided to open his broad shoulders on his way to a bruising unbeaten 99, it was decidedly embarrassing one-way traffic.
Afghanistan had begun with much promise, Shapoor and Dawlat Zadran putting Craig Kieswetter and Alex Hales through the wringer. Shapoor bowled an excellent first over and capped off a maiden by forcing Kieswetter to play on off the last delivery, while Dawlat got a few to rear up awkwardly, pinging Wright painfully on his right glove in the second over.
England, the defending champion, had managed only 15, not all of them by design, in the first four overs. Hales and Wright then showed Shapoor who the boss was with three fours and a six off the fifth over which leaked 23 to deal a body blow to Afghanistan’s aspirations.
With Wright leading the way, England blasted 87 off the last five overs to pile up the highest score of the competition so far, a mammoth 196 for 5. Wright was left stranded one short of his century, equalling the highest T20I score by an Englishman, but his 55-ball pyrotechnics, which included eight fours and six sixes, had given England the final push it had been looking for after being 109 for 2 at the conclusion of 15 overs.
Afghanistan had to bat way above itself to even make a match of it, but it lost Mohammad Shahzad, the swashbuckling opener, and Shafiqullah inside the first seven deliveries of its chase. Clearly out of its depth but determined to play its strokes against an English attack that boasted a lot more pace and procured considerably more bounce than India, Afghanistan keeled in without a fight, being shot out for 80 in the 18th over.
Though it narrowly avoided the lowest total in Twenty20 Internationals (67 by Kenya against Ireland in 2007), this was a painful lesson for Afghanistan, with only Gulbodin Naib – who provided late fireworks – getting into double figures. Afghanistan will undoubtedly be better for the experience, but this drubbing merely served to reiterate the massive gulf that exists between teams as far apart as Afghanistan and England are.
England’s comprehensive rout meant it and India are both assured of Super Eights places. Afghanistan will take the flight back home, chuffed that it had its moments, notably against India, but chastened by Friday’s display that, its greenhorn status notwithstanding, did it little credit. Afghanistan will have to realise fast that while cricket is a game of bat and ball, fielding and catching too are equally crucial elements. It was again let down by sub-standard ground fielding and extremely schoolboyish catching, the most glaring being Izzatullah Dawlatzai’s gift at backward point to reprieve Wright when the batsman was on 75.
Wright, truth to tell, didn’t bat as if he needed any assistance. He played himself in in Hales’s company to negate the early loss of Kieswetter, both men equal partners in the second-wicket stand of 69. Wright was briefly tied down when spin was introduced in the shape of Samiullah Shenwari, the leggie, and Karim Sadiq, the off-spinner, but it wasn’t long before he found a second wind as he mocked the length of the boundaries with clean strikes that cascaded off the middle of his blade.
Enjoying his No. 3 slot in the batting order, he dominated a third-wicket stand of 72 with Eoin Morgan – it was during the second half of this association that the carnage began – then eased off a touch as Jos Buttler played an entertaining cameo. With the arrival of Jonny Bairstow, Wright went back into overdrive, smashing Dawlatzai for three towering sixes in the 19th over of the innings.
Dawlatzai, replacing Najibullah Zadran in the XI, which played against India, had a forgettable evening, conceding 56 from his three overs. His third over, which produced 32, went down as the joint second most expensive over in T20 history. Mohammad Nabi’s off-spin yielded 46 in four, while through the mayhem, Dawlat kept his wits about him to finish with 1 for 22 from his four overs.