Afghanistan shock England by 69 runs in huge World Cup upset
New Delhi: Displaying the valour that best epitomises the people of the strife-torn nation, Afghanistan caused one of the biggest upsets in the history of World Cup as they outclassed defending champions England by 69 runs here on Sunday.
The Afghans’ epic triumph against the overwhelming favourites, one of the game’s traditional heavyweights, was a reflection of the spirit and courage of the battle-hardened tribe from the country ravaged by years of war and internal conflicts.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz gave early impetus while Ikram Alikhil provided the final flourish to guide Afghanistan to a competitive 284 all out after being put into bat.
The Afghan bowlers then thrived under lights, dishing out a collective effort to bundle out England for 215 runs in 40.3 overs and register just their second World Cup win, eight years since their last against Scotland in Australia.
While this was Afghanistan’s first win in the ongoing tournament after two losses, England slumped to their second defeat from three games.
Rashid Khan (3/37) and Mujeeb Ur Rahman (3/51) were the pick of the Afghan bowlers.
Harry Brook (66 off 61) was the only shining light in what was a dismal batting display from England.
Credit should also go to former England batter Jonathan Trott, who is the present Afghanistan coach, for having played a key role in the team’s rise.
England did not have the best of starts to their chase with Fazalhaq Farooqi inflicting an early blow in the form of Jonny Bairstow, who was caught plumb in front of the wicket in the second over.
Farooqi generated pace and troubled the English batters in the beginning.
The Kotla pitch also had something for the spinners as the ball kept low and turned under lights.
The in-form Joe Root, who had scored back-to-back fifties, was done in by a Mujeeb delivery that kept low and crashed onto the stumps.
Dawis Malan played cautiously for his 32 off 39 balls before handing a simple catch to Ibrahim Zadran at short extra cover off Mohammad Nabi, as England stuttered to 68 for 3. England completely failed to judge the pitch as their decision to bowl first backfired with the pitch offering enough assistance to the bowlers in the second session.
Skipper Jos Buttler also failed to rescue his side as he was cleaned up by Naveen-ul-Haq with a delivery that came in after pitching.
England continued to lose wickets in regular intervals as Liam Livingstone, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes also failed with the bat.
Earlier, opener Gurbaz gave the Afghans a flying start, scoring 80 off 57 balls, while number 6 batter Alikhil made a solid 58 off 66 deliveries, as Afghanistan recovered from a mid-innings collapse to post a good total.
Off-colour in the first two matches, Afghanistan openers — Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran (28) — rose to the occasion, scoring the team’s 50 in just 6.3 overs.
The Afghan openers meant business and played copybook shots to score their runs. The duo didn’t take too many risks and Gurbaz mainly ruled the roost, taking the attack to the English bowlers.
He played all around the park and his shots through the covers and flicks were a treat to watch.
With Afghanistan scoring runs thick and fast, Buttler introduced Adil Rashid (3/42) in the 11th over but Gurbaz was in a relentless mood as he swept the leg-spinner for a boundary to bring up his fifty in just 33 balls. Gurbaz looked in ominous form as he dispatched Rashid over deep midwicket to bring up Afghanistan’s 100 in just 76 deliveries.
England tasted their first success in the 17th over when an under-pressure Zadran (28 off 48 balls) gave a simple catch to Root at short mid wicket but not before adding 114 runs for the opening wicket.
England got back into the game an over later with back-to-back wickets.
First Rashid dismissed Rahmat Shah, stumped by Buttler and then in the very next ball Afghanistan suffered a big blow in the form of Gurbaz, who became a victim of an unnecessary run out.
Gurbaz decorated his innings with eight boundaries and four sixes. Following Gurbaz’s dismissal, runs started to dry up for Afghanistan as skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi and Azmatullah Omarzai looked to revive the innings.
Omarzai tried to break the shackles in the 25th over, clobbering Chris Woakes for a six and four.
But Omarzai departed in the next over, slicing a Livingstone delivery to Woakes at long off as Afghanistan lost four wickets for just 38 runs.
Shahidi too didn’t last long, bowled by Root with the Afghan skipper caught in two minds.
Veteran Nabi also departed as the Afghans slumped to 190 for 6 from a commanding position.
Alikhil, then, played a fine knock and decorated his innings with three fours and two sixes to prop up his team.