England recovered from 57-6 to post 142-7, before defeating Afghanistan by 15 runs in Delhi on Wednesday, to keep their World T20 semi-final hopes alive.
England chose to bat first on an unpredictable surface, and nightmares of their defeats against the Netherlands in 2007 and 2014 started to haunt them as they had themselves to blame for the majority of the wickets that fell at the top of the order. Moeen Ali and David Willey’s 57-run stand proved invaluable however, before the side held their nerve with ball in hand.
Eoin Morgan left a ball that turned on to his stumps and Ben Stokes ran out Joe Root in a spell of panic for the English, but the match turned on its head in the 19th over as 25 runs were scored off it: Moeen hit a six and a four, while Willey struck two maximums off Amir Hamza.
Afghanistan proved they are no pushovers as they took the Proteas all the way on Sunday. The 210 they needed then was a much taller ask than the 143 they needed against the English, but their batting let them down in the powerplay overs, which forced them to play catch-up throughout the innings.
The key wicket was always going to be that of Mohammad Shahzad, who has grown a cult following with his big hitting and eccentric behaviour on and off the field, and Willey hit his straps straight away, trapping him lbw with the third ball of the innings. By the end of the third over, they were struggling on 13-3.
Willey ended up with two wickets, as did the impressive Adil Rashid. The most outstanding of them all, however, was Liam Plunkett, who conceded just 12 off his four overs, including a maiden.
Afghanistan’s last chance to take a Test-playing scalp will be against West Indies on Sunday, while England’s last group encounter is against Sri Lanka on Saturday. Numerous potential scenarios make the end to this group campaign a very intriguing one.