England vs Afghanistan seems like a mismatch on paper in terms of cricketing pedigree, strength, or star power. England has put their World Cup aspirations back on track after crushing Bangladesh in the last match. Afghanistan is yet to register a point in this campaign with two losses out of two. The Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi was the venue for this thrilling game between two cricket-crazy nations. Will the English follow the normal script to claim an easy victory? Or is there a major upset on the cards?
England played with an unchanged eleven from their demolition of Bangladesh. Afghanistan made a solitary change to their team: Off form, Najibullah Zadran gave way to Ikram Alikhil.
- Jonny Bairstow 2. Dawid Malan 3. Joe Root 4. Harry Brook 5. Jos Buttler (Cap.) (WK) 6. Liam Livingstone 7. Chris Woakes 8. Sam Curran 9. Adil Rashid 10. Mark Wood 11. Reece Topley
- Rahmanullah Gurbaz (WK) 2. Ibrahim Zadran 3. Rahmat Shah 4. Hashmatullah Shahidi (Cap.) 5. Mohammad Nabi 6. Ikram Alikhil 7. Azmatullah Omarzai 8. Rashid Khan 9. Mujeeb Ur Rahman 10. Fazalhaq Farooqi 11. Naveen-Ul-Haq
English skipper Jos Buttler won the toss and invited Afghanistan to bat first.
|Venue||The 13th game of the 2023 World Cup was played at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi|
|Date||The game started from 02:00 pm IST on Sunday, October 15.|
Captaincy & Tactics
Rahmanullah Gurbaz came to the field with only one thing in mind: attack, attack, and attack. It was an all-out aggressive approach from the Afghans who cruised to 79/0 in the powerplay overs. Jos Buttler‘s seamers bowled short and were mercilessly punished.
After Gurbaz got run out, things became more favorable for the English. Buttler used this opportunity to deploy his part-timers: Liam Livingstone completed the quota of full 10 overs for the first time in his ODI career. Root also chipped in with the wicket of the skipper Hashmatullah. Adil Rashid finished the day with three wickets. But the waywardness of the fast bowlers cost England dearly, Afghanistan put up a decent score of 284.
Jos Buttler’s decision of batting second is largely influenced by the presence of dew in the evening. The English camp thought the ball would skid on to bat nicely under the lights. They could not be more wrong. There was a substantial amount of movement under the lights and off the pitch as well.
Fazalhaq Farooqi was viciously swinging the ball into the right-hander which eventually led to Bairstow’s demise. Mujeeb put his height to full use as he trapped Root in front. Mohammad Nabi bowled on a tight lane and did not leave the batsman any room for maneuver. Then Rashid Khan joined the party to pile on the English misery.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz started coming out of the crease from the onset: an ominous sign for the batters. The 21-year-old averages 37.42 in ODIs this year with a healthy 85.62 strike rate. He smashed four sixes in his innings to unsettle the timid new ball bowlers. His pull shots brought 20 runs in a brilliant knock of 80 runs.
Ikram Alikhil played his first ODI in the World Cup, but his confident strokes belied his previous absence. He played a blinder of 58 to give the Afghans some momentum during the later part of the innings. Mujeeb smashed a 16-ball 28 to up the ante and help the Afghans to a fighting target.
Harry Brook had scored only 154 runs in his ODI career before this game. But he looked the only exception to a rather lackluster English batting performance. His cut shots and drives delighted cricket Romantics throughout the world. Despite the attacking nature of innings, Brook maintained 85% control over his shots.
Buttler got out cheaply, and so did Livingstone and Malan. They just could not find a way out of the Afghan spin attack. The uneven bounce of the attack was something that troubled them persistently. English batters only played 21% of attacking shots against the spinners.
Chris Woakes’ dwindling form is a major cause of concern for the English camp. The veteran pacer has only taken 8 wickets in 2023 at an average of 44.87. Sam Curran also conceded runs at a hemorrhaging rate to aggravate the new ball situation. Adil Rashid delivered 12 googlies and finished with 3 for 42. Rashid will look to improve his World Cup stats: 15 wickets from 14 matches at 43.80 is not a good read for a spinner of his caliber.
Liam Livingstone was exceptional with the ball in his hand. He conceded only 33 runs from 10 overs by bowling wicket to wicket. Joe Root also contributed massively, he cost just 19 runs from 4 overs with 13 dot balls. Reece Topley survived an injury scare but was ineffective throughout.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman bowled exceptionally well with the new ball. He bowled 43% of his deliveries just around the off-stump line. He finished the day with 3 wickets, all of them being crucial for the win. Fazalhaq Farooqi impressed with the new ball and dismissed Jonny Bairstow. Veteran Mohammad Nabi was bowling on a tight line with 61% of his deliveries pitched in and around the good length. Nabi gave away 16 runs from 6 overs and claimed two valuable wickets.
Naveen-Ul-Haq was bowling dangerous inswingers which uprooted Buttler’s stumps. Rashid Khan was late to join the onslaught, but he was the one who finished it. Rashid picked up three, a dazzling display of classic leg spin bowling. Rashid averages 34.14 this year with 14 wickets, but the signs are there to indicate a return to form is imminent.
England was energetic and athletic in the field and completed some good grabs. Joe Root running 15 yards and diving to dismiss Rashid was the highlight of the fielding. Root ended with three catches in the innings; Woakes, Curran, and Buttler took one each.
Afghanistan was erratic at times with some misfielding much to Rashid’s disgust. Farooqi dropped an easy catch to prolong the game. Rahmat Shah took a great catch at slip off Rashid’s bowling. Mohammad Nabi also finished an amazing grab at first slip to dismiss Adil Rashid.
But the best moment for the Afghans from the fielding perspective came when Ikram Alikhil displayed brilliant glove work to pouch Brook’s edge from a Mujeeb delivery. It was a moment of pure bliss, delight, and catharsis for the boys from Asia.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz continued his impressive showing at the World Cup with a flamboyant innings of 80. Ikram Alikhil provided some late fireworks to get the score past the 280 mark. Adil Rashid was the most successful among the English bowlers with 3 wickets for 42. Mark Wood bowled fast and picked up a couple. Liam Livingstone bowled a full ten-over spell with only 33 runs conceded and a wicket to his name.
Harry Brook was a lonely warrior for the English with his counterpunching innings of 66. But the spinners were instrumental in Afghanistan’s success. Mujeeb and Rashid picked up three each and Nabi bowled with unwavering control to finish with 2 wickets.
England’s only shining light was the presence of youngster Harry Brook in the middle. The boy from Bradford was using his feet well to tread carefully against the dangerous Afghan spinners. Brook was batting at 66 with England still needing 115 from 94 balls.
Rashid Khan tossed one up to tempt the batter. Brook shifted his body on the back leg to work the ball down the third-man region. He only managed to edge it, and Ikram Alikhil grabbed a fine catch. With the English resistance finally broken, the Afghans were beyond themselves with joy. England virtually lost the game at that point.
Afghanistan recorded the biggest win in their cricketing history with a memorable win of 69 runs.
Player of the Match
Mujeeb Ur Rahman won the best player of the match for his spell of 51 for 3 and 28 runs from 16 balls with the bat.
|Afghanistan Total: 284/10 (49.5 overs)||England Total: 215/10 (40.3 overs)|
|Rahmanullah Gurbaz 80 (57)||Harry Brook 66 (61)|
|Ikram Alikhil 58 (66)||Dawid Malan 32 (39)|
|Adil Rashid 3/42||Rashid Khan 3/37|
|Mark Wood 2/50||Mujeeb Ur Rahman 3/51|
It was a momentous night for Afghanistan cricket after beating the current world champions. The surprise package from Asia put some runs on the board to test the English mettle. The spinners then started spinning magic to secure the finest victory in their history.
The path to the semi-final has become more strenuous for the English who can not afford any more slip-ups. Afghanistan will be up for giant-killing when they meet New Zealand on Wednesday.
The Afghan cricketers promised their beleaguered country recently shaken by an earthquake that they would bring joy to them. They delivered it and so much more by creating history.