AUSTRALIA: England began their T20 World Cup campaign with a 5-wicket victory. The team produced an amazing display of bowling and fielding to bundle out Afghanistan for 113 runs.
The Afghanistan bowlers squeezed the flow of runs and picked up wickets at regular intervals, never letting go of the pressure on England’s batsmen.
The Afghan batting failed to set a defendable score as Livingstone’s cameo carried England to the win.
England won the toss and elected to bowl first on a skiddy and bouncy Perth track. The English bowlers bowled disciplined lines early on without allowing the Afghan openers to free their arms.
The consistent bowling reaped rewards as Rahmanullah Gurbaz (10 off 9 balls) was caught behind the stumps off the bowling of Mark Wood (23/2). Hazratullah Zazai (7 off 17 balls), in particular, struggled to both get his timing right as well as rotate the strike.
At the end of the powerplay, Afghanistan reached 35/1, their score consisting of only three boundaries and two sixes. Ben Stokes (19/2) bowling the 7th over ended Zazai’s struggles by having the left-hander hit an aerial shot which was caught by a diving Liam Livingstone.
Afghanistan stumbled to 55/2 after 10 overs as the English bowling never let go of the stranglehold over the scoring rate.
The mounting pressure got the better of Ibrahim Zadran (32 off 32 balls) and the attempted loft off Sam Curran (10/5) ended up in the hands of Moeen Ali at backward point.
The 13th over from Adil Rashid (32/0) yielded 13 runs for the struggling side after Najibullah Zadran (13 off 11 balls) smashed the leggie straight over his head for an 85-metre maximum.
Ben Stokes came back for his final over and straightaway got the scalp of Najibullah Zadran in the 15th over.
Najibullah tried to hit the pacer out of the park but mistimed the lofted shot, which popped up in the air only to be pouched by a running Adil Rasheed.
The new man in, Mohammad Nabi (3 off 5 balls), didn’t last long, becoming Mark Wood’s 2nd wicket of the day. Jos Buttler made a brilliant diving catch to dismiss the right-hander.
Afghanistan’s hopes of posting a competitive total were all but ended when Sam Curran bowled the 18th over. The medium-pacer claimed the wickets of Azmatullah Omarzai (8 off 6 balls) and Rashid Khan (0 off 1 ball) off successive balls while giving away just 3 runs.
Chris Woakes (24/1) exhibited quick reflexes to catch Mujeeb Ur Rahman (0 off 1 ball) off his own bowling in the 19th over.
Sam Curran returned to bowl the last over, missed out on a hat-trick but dismissed Usman Ghani (30 off 30 balls) and the last batsman, Fazalhaq Farooqi (0 off 2 balls) within 4 balls to wrap up the Afghanistan innings at 112 in 19.4 overs.
The Afghans lost their last 5 wickets inside 12 deliveries while adding only 3 runs to the team total.
In response to the 113-run target, England was off to a brisk start thanks to the opener, Jos Buttler (18 off 18 balls), while Alex Hales (19 off 20 balls) happily played the second fiddle.
Fazalhaq Farooqi created an opportunity for Afghanistan in the form of Alex Hales, who slashed at the ball which flew towards backward point only to be dropped by substitute fielder Qais Ahmed.
Alex Hales added insult to injury by hitting the very next delivery for a massive six, over long-on.
Farooqi kept bowling his heart out, which reaped rewards as dangerous-looking Buttler hit a full-length delivery to Mujeeb Ur Rahman (22/1), who caught the ball without any fuss at deep mid-wicket. At the end of the powerplay, England was comfortably 40/1.
Alex Hales got another reprieve in the 8th over when he hit Mujeeb towards long-on. Mohammad Nabi, stationed at long-off, ran toward the ball but failed to hold onto the catch.
Hales couldn’t make the most of his fortune and became Fareed Ahmad’s first victim. He hit a short delivery from Ahmad into the waiting hands of Fazalhaq Farooqi at backward square leg.
The bowlers, led by Rashid Khan (17/1), dried up the runs, giving away only 22 runs in the 4 overs after powerplay as England reached 62/2 after 10 overs.
Mohammad Nabi struck immediately by catching big-hitting Ben Stokes (2 off 4 balls), who came down the pitch to play the delivery only to miss the line of the ball, which brushed past his pad before disturbing the stumps.
England’s first boundary since the 5th over came in the 14th over when Liam Livingston (29 off 21) welcomed Mujeeb Ur Rahman in the 14th over with a boundary.
Livingstone looked to play across the line off the very next delivery and was struck on the front pad. Umpire Aleem Dar turned down the appeal as Afghanistan decided to review the decision. The delivery seemed to be missing the leg stump, and Afghanistan lost the review.
Mujeeb struck three deliveries later as he tricked Dawid Malan (18 off 30 balls) into a poor shot and Mohammad Nabi took a stunning catch to get rid of the batsman.
Liam Livingstone hit two consecutive boundaries off Fareed Ahmad in the 15th over, which yielded 14 runs.
Just as the English innings seemed to gain some momentum, Rashid Khan, bowling his last over, invited Harry Brook (7 off 6 balls) to hit a fullish delivery. The batsman ended up hitting it straight to long-on where Ibrahim Zadran finished the job.
Moeen Ali joined forces with Livingstone for a 16-run partnership for the unbroken 6th wicket to bring England home with 11 balls to spare.