For 15 overs, it looked like we might finally have a big ICC World T20 2016 upset on our hands as Afghanistan prospered on a slow wicket at the Feroz Shah Kotla. Then, England's experience told and Afghanistan quelled under the weight of oh-we-might-just-win-this expectation and just like that, that upset was taken out of the equation.
England will look back at this match and tell themselves "we got out of jail on that one," because for the vast majority of the first innings, having chosen to bat first, they looked like being shut out for a score well below 100. But, Moeen Ali (41 n.o., 33b, 4x4, 1x6) showed his calmness under pressure, putting on a vital partnership with David Willey (20 n.o., 17b, 2x6) for the eighth wicket to propel England from 85/7 to 142/7 in 20 overs.
Having seen a potentially comfortable victory snatched away from them by England in the last four overs of the first innings, Afghanistan failed to handle the pressure of the 143 chase, finishing well below the mark on 127 for nine to hand England a 15-run victory.
It might all have been different had their main man with the bat – Mohammad Shahzad – got going at the top. Afghanistan rely heavily on the opener to get them off to a great start, but after hitting – well, edging, really – Willey(4-0-23-2) for a boundary first ball, the England left-arm pacer found a ball to swing back in and hit the batsman on the pads. The umpire correctly raised his index finger and from there Afghanistan were done and dusted.
Asghar Stanikzai came and went, edging one through to Joe Root at first slip off Chris Jordan, before Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Noor Ali Zadran and Mohammad Nabi all fell in a hurry to put Afghanistan on 64/6 in the 13th over.
Samiullah Shenwari and Najibullah Zadran tried their best to at least make a game of it, but from there it was too big and tall a mountain to climb for Afghanistan, despite the best efforts of Shafiqullah (35 n.o., 20b, 3x4, 2x6) right at the end of the match.
Earlier, it was all hunky dory for the Afghans, as the spinners took control of the proceedings without even needing the ball to turn too much. England just seem like a deer caught in the headlights when spin comes at them, and left-armer Amir Hamza, who would get spanked in the latter part of the innings, would start the wicket procession by picking up Jason Roy, the man who set the chase up for England in that brilliant chase against South Africa, in the third over.
James Vince, in for the injured Alex Hales, fell to Mohammad Nabi (4-0-17-2), hitting a ball back to the off-spinner, who had an excellent time with the ball, before Morgan fell to the same bowler, next ball, completely misreading the line and shouldering arms only to see his stumps knocked back.
A third wicket fell in the same over as England went from crazy to calamitous, with Joe Root getting himself run out after miscommunication with Ben Stokes. At 42/4 in 6 overs, this was a tailor-made situation for Jos Buttler and Stokes to show their rebuilding chops, but England's two biggest hitters fell without troubling the scorers too much as well, to leave the team tottering on 57/6 in 9.2 overs.
Ali, calm and composed, and Chris Jordan (15, 18b, 2x4) built a small partnership to stop the wicket glut, before Ali and Willey put on 57 runs together in just 5.3 overs to ensure England would post a score their bowlers could defend.
Get the highlights of England vs Afghanistan HERE