England begin T20 World Cup with Afghanistan win

ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Group 1, Perth
Afghanistan 112 (19.4 overs): Curran 5-10, Stokes 2-19, Wood 2-23; Ibrahim 32
England 113-5 (18.1 overs): Livingstone 29*, Hales 19, Nabi 1-16
England won by five wickets

England’s bowlers set up a five-wicket victory over Afghanistan as Jos Buttler’s side made a winning start to the T20 World Cup in Perth.

Sam Curran took 5-10 – England’s first five-wicket haul in men’s T20s – in a complete bowling performance, which was backed up by a phenomenal display of catching.

Curran claimed four wickets in six balls at the death after Mark Wood and Ben Stokes had taken two wickets apiece as Afghanistan were bowled out for 112 in 19.4 overs.

As notable, though, was England’s fielding – a fine high catch from Adil Rashid and a leaping one-handed grab by wicketkeeper Jos Buttler the highlights.

England’s batting order misfired in the chase, slipping to 97-5 against Afghanistan’s spin-heavy attack, but the target was never likely to be defendable.

Liam Livingstone ended 29 not out as England, semi-finalists in the 2021 World Cup and among the favourites again, won with 11 balls remaining.

Earlier in the day, New Zealand stunned hosts and defending champions Australia in the same group.

Their next game is against Ireland on Wednesday, followed by Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground two days later.

England win game in the field

Their sloppiness with the bat will take some shine off the win but, after a week of shocks in the first group stage, England will simply be happy to avoid a similar fate against a dangerous Afghanistan side.

The batting lacked a ruthless edge but their performance in the field was as good as any in recent memory.

Wood began a spell of ferocious pace bowling – the fastest recorded at a T20 World Cup – by having Rahmanullah Gurbaz caught behind with his first ball to start the third over.

After that, the clinic of catching began.

First, Liam Livingstone sprinted round from deep cover before diving to cling on to see off Rahmanullah Gurbaz. Then Moeen Ali ran back to take one dropping over his shoulder from extra cover as Ibrahim Zadran – Afghanistan’s highest scorer – was dismissed for a run-a-ball 32.

The pick was Rashid’s take. He ran back from mid-wicket to catch a skier from Najibullah Zadran out of the night’s sky before captain Mohammad Nabi gloved one to the diving Buttler down the leg side off Wood.

“We caught absolutely everything bar one speccy from Hales,” Woakes told BBC Test Match Special.

“That really helps us as bowlers and there was some great ground fielding as well. In the first half of the game, we couldn’t have asked for much more.”

Curran continues to deliver

Playing in his first World Cup, Curran had one wicket for eight runs when he began the 18th over, with Afghanistan still holding some hope of boosting their total from 106-5.

Ten balls later he had bettered England’s previous best figures – Adil Rashid’s 4-2 against West Indies in 2021.

The 24-year-old all-rounder has quickly become England’s go-to death bowler. Again, he impressively closed out the innings with slower-ball bouncers.

“At the start of the game, I didn’t expect to be walking off like that but it was a great performance by the boys,” Curran said.

Impressive too was Stokes, who bowled the first over and deserved his two wickets.

Crucially, if the all-rounder performs with the ball it allows England to continue to play all seven of their big-hitting batters.

England miss chance to boost net run-rate

At the start of the chase England would have hoped to win by a significant margin.

In doing so they would have boosted their net run-rate, which could be important if they end up level on points with any other team at the end of this group stage.

Instead they lost openers Jos Buttler and Alex Hales – both caught in the deep in the leg side – for 18 and 19 respectively. Hales had already been dropped twice by that point.

The spinners then took hold and England were unable to hit their free-flowing form. Ben Stokes was bowled for two by Mohammed Nabi, who then caught Dawid Malan for a stodgy 18 from 30 balls off Mujeeb ur Rahman.

Had Afghanistan taken those chances the game could have been different but realistically they never had enough runs.

Livingstone hit three fours, showing glimpses of form on his return from injury which could prove crucial as England head to Melbourne to continue their quest for a second men’s T20 World Cup title.

Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi said: “It’s not the best start to the tournament for us but we tried our best. We didn’t get a good enough total on the board in the first innings and everyone knows England are one of the best T20 teams in the world.

“The pitch was more suited to them as well but there weren’t enough runs. I still think our boys played really well.”

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