England survived a scare against Afghanistan, overcoming the ever-improving minnows by 15 runs in a Group 1 match at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi. Batting first after winning the toss, England had slumped to 85 from 7, and an upset seemed on the cards. Moeen Ali and David Willey, however, added 55 from 33 balls to give England a decent target to defend, as they finished on 142 for 7. Moeen finished on 41 from 33 while Willey blasted 20 from 17 as 35 runs came off the last two overs of the chase. It was enough for England to stay alive in the tournament.
Moeen was lucky as a close lbw appeal from the bowling of Shapoor Zadran went in his favour. This was in the 18th over, and proved to be crucial as Moeen and Willey combined to plunder 25 runs in the 19th over of the innings. Hamza who had only conceded 20 runs in his first three overs, was clobbered over midwicket for a six, and then smacked for a boundary. Willey then took over and got back to back sixes – one that was launched over the top, and the second that was lofted over midwicket.
England’s innings finished on a high. Still, they would have had hopes of chasing down 143, especially if Mohammad Shahzad got the side off to a flyer. That wasn’t to happen though. After edging the first ball for four, Shahzad fell second ball, trapped in front by a swinging delivery from Willey. It was a massive blow for Afghanistan, and they could not recover from that point. Asghar Stanikzai fended Chris Jordan straight to Joe Root at first slip, Gulabdin Naib hit a short one to extra cover, Rashid Khan drove Moeen straight to short extra-cover while Noor Ali Zadran hit one straight back to Adil Rashid.
At 60 for 5 after 12 overs, Afghanistan were never in the match. Samiullah Shenwari hung around for 22 from 27 balls, but it Shafiullah’s unbeaten 35 from 20 that really reduced the margin of deficit to a respectable one. He slammed Ben Stokes over midwicket for a six, and towards the end bashed Jordan for a maximum into the second tier at long-on. However, the overall bowling effort of England was too good for Afghanistan, typified by Liam Plunkett’s excellent figures of 0 for 12 from his 4 with one maiden. Willey, Jordan and Rashid all kept things tight while picking up wickets.
Things weren’t looking as bright for England when their top and middle order stumbled rather inexplicably. Jason Roy was cleaned up by Hamza by one that was fired into leg stump. James Vince, coming in for the unfit Alex Hales made 22 before hitting one straight back to Nabi. Eoin Morgan was cleaned up leaving a straight one. There was a third wicket in the same over as Root went for a non-existent single only to be sent back and be stranded. Jos Buttler was then brilliantly caught by Nabi at short extra cover. Everything seemed to be going wrong for England until Moeen and Willey joined forces.
--By A Cricket Correspondent