England vs Afghanistan cricket: The holders stunned in Delhi

England vs Afghanistan cricket: The holders stunned in Delhi
Afghanistan's Ikram Alikhil during the ICC Cricket World Cup match between England and Afghanistan on October 15, 2023 at Arun Jaitley Stadium in Delhi, India. - Photo by Icon sport

Now that’s what we call a major upset as the 2019 World Cup Winners and the 2023 T20 World Cup Winners England were downed by Afghanistan, by 69 runs, who recorded only their second ever triumph in a 50-over World Cup fixture, their first a narrow 1 wicket win against Scotland in 2015!

An Afghanistan win seemed a million miles away earlier in the day in Delhi as Jos Buttler won the toss and chose to bat first having named an unchanged side. Hashmatullah Shahidi announced one change for Afghanistan with Najibullah Zadran missing out with Ikram Alikhil coming in.

As they have threatened to do in their first two games, openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran got their side off to a flier, putting on 114 for the first wicket. In reality it was the ‘Gurbaz Show’ with Zadran producing a pedestrian 28 from 48 balls whereas the usual keeper-batter, who was glove-less for this game, was eventually felled for a 57-ball 80.

Taking the gloves, Alikhil hit two sixes and three fours with a half-century from number six and there were useful lower order cameos from Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman. But in reality, Afghanistan’s 284 all out from 49.5 should not have been a problem for the current holders.

With the ball, England’s spinners, Joe Root, Liam Livingstone and Adil Rashid returned the best economy rates for the side but the swing pair of Chris Woakes and Sam Curran both went for over 40 runs from 4 overs and were not asked to risk a fifth!

England have played a consistent brand of cricket with the bat in this format of the game since their first ODI after the 2015 World Cup and in spite of this failure, we should not expect them to change. Harry Brook top scored with 66, the ever consistent Dawid Malan hit 32 at the top of the order and there were contributions from the tail of 20 from Adil Rashid, 18 from Mark Wood and 15 not out from Reece Topley. But in reality, it was the lack of runs from Jonny Bairstow (2), Joe Root (11), Jos Buttler (9) and Liam Livingstone (10) where the game was lost.

That is not to downplay the brilliant bowling from Afghanistan, particularly from the spin twins of Rashid Khan (3-37) and Mujeeb Ur Rahman (3-51). Rashid has long been a force in T20Is but this was the first time in a while that he has done the business against a top team in an ODI, whereas Rahman’s performance saw him take the Player of the Match Award!

Monday’s action sees Match 14 with Australia taking on Sri Lanka in Lucknow.

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