England reached the top spot in the ICC World Cup 2019 league table after a comfortable 150-run victory over Afghanistan, inspired by captain Eoin Morgan’s first innings knock of 148 off just 71 balls.Morgan’s innings, which contained a world-record 17 sixes powered England to a first innings total of 397/6, with Jonny Bairstow (90 off 99 balls) and Joe Root (88 off 82 balls) also making telling contributions.
Winning the toss and choosing to bat first, England were dominant from the word go, Bairstow taking early charge of the proceedings. James Vince fell for 26 in the bowling of Dawlat Zadran.
Bairstow was untroubled until, and in sight of his eighth ODI century, he chipped a return catch to Gulbadin Naib.
Visibly annoyed, Bairstow walked off having been in command during a 99-ball innings that featured eight fours and three sixes.
Walking in to bat at number four with the score reading 164/2, Morgan settled in quickly, hitting Naib for two sixes including a fine hit over long-on.
But the left-hander should have been out when he skied Rashid, batting at 28, only for Dawlat Zadran at deep midwicket to drop a simple catch. To make matters worse, the ball bounced out of his cupped hands and over the boundary for four.
Morgan rubbed salt into the wounds by immediately hitting a six, and went to town in the 36th over off which he milked 18 runs.
Morgan then went to fifty with his fifth six in 36 balls faced, and only proceeded to go from strength to strength post that.
Joe Root, meanwhile, was denied a second successive hundred and third of the tournament when he holed out to Naib, whose 3 for 68 was not a bad return in the circumstances.
When Moeen Ali hit the penultimate delivery of the innings for six, England also set a new team world record of the most number of sixes hit in an innings, with 25. The extent of England’s dominance could be gauged by the fact that Rashid Khan went for 110 runs in his nine overs without taking a wicket – the worst figures for a bowler in World Cups, and the second worst of all time.
In reply, Afghanistan were never realistically in the game. Noor Ali Zadran fell to Jofra Archer’s pace in just the second over, playing a delivery straight on to his stumps. Captain Gulbadin Naib then took it into his own hands to dominate and dictate the pace of the Afghanistan innings.
After seeing out the first few overs from Archer and Woakes, Naib freed his hands whenever possible and was successful to an extent, most notably hitting Archer for a four and a six in his fourth over to bring some joy to the Afghanistan fans that were gathered at Old Trafford.
But his stay at the crease ended right after Afghanistan brought up their fifty, with wicketkeeper Jos Buttler taking a good running catch towards fine-leg after the ball took a top-edge.
After Naib’s dismissal, the England bowlers tightened the noose on Afghanistan, and with runs hard to come by till the twentieth over, it became apparently clear that Afghanistan would rather wind the overs down and come as close to the target as possible, without really staking a claim to go and chase the entire total down and risk losing wickets.
Hashmatullah Shahidi and Rahmat Shah put together a 52-run partnership, before Shah was dismissed off the bowling of Adil Rashid. Afghanistan kept losing wickets at regular intervals, as their batsmen got their eye in but could not capitalize on the start.
Former captain Asghar Afghan made a handy 44 off 48 balls that included a few lusty blows, before hitting one too many and perishing off the bowling of Rashid once again.
None of the following batsmen could cross 15 runs as Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran and Rashid Khan fell within the space of 20 runs. Afghanistan ended the innings on 247/8.