England’s World Cup title defence ‘on the brink’ after Afghanistan pulls off stunning upset
England’s title defence at the Cricket World Cup is in real trouble after losing to Afghanistan by 69 runs in one of the biggest shocks in the tournament’s history.
Afghanistan was dismissed for 284 with one ball of its innings remaining in Delhi, but bowled out England for 215 with 9.3 overs left. Only Harry Brook offered serious resistance with a 61-ball 66 at Arun Jaitley Stadium.
The ninth-ranked Afghans celebrated only their second-ever win at the World Cup, the other coming against Scotland in 2015 in their first appearance.
England has lost two of its opening three group games, having been routed by New Zealand in the tournament opener.
It was Afghanistan’s first-ever ODI win against England.
“It will take a while to sink in … but we hope it sinks in quickly because we have a game in three days in Chennai,” said Afghanistan coach Jonathan Trott, a former England international.
“It is important that the guys enjoy this moment, and take stock to realise that, when we do certain things right in 100 overs, we can achieve a lot and win as a team.”
Off-spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman spun his side to victory with a stunning return of 3-51 in 10 overs. He had also scored a quick-fire 28 off 16 balls in an impressive all-round display which earned him the player-of-the-match award.
“I have worked hard to bowl consistently with the new ball in the power play,” Mujeeb said. “The whole team has worked hard to achieve this result. It is a very proud moment to be here in the World Cup and beating the champions.”
Afghanistan opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz had smacked the English bowling for 80 off 57 balls with eight fours and four sixes before being run out, after England chose to bowl first. Wrist spinner Adil Rashid took 3-42 as Afghanistan’s 284 runs seemed like an under-par total on the tournament’s best batting track.
England’s campaign is now on the brink with tough games ahead including South Africa, India and Pakistan.
England started badly in its chase against Afghanistan with Jonny Bairstow (2) out lbw to Fazalhaq Farooqi following a review where the marginal umpire’s call went against the opener.
Dawid Malan (32) and Joe Root (11) added 30 runs for the second wicket and looked to solidify the innings.
Mujeeb got into the attack and bowled Root through the gate at the other end. Mohammad Nabi (2-16 in six overs) had Malan caught in the seventh over. Nabi was playing his 150th ODI.
Afghanistan spinners didn’t allow England to settle down at all, and the batters couldn’t even take advantage of dewy conditions under lights on what appeared a run-friendly surface.
Rashid Khan (3-37 in 9.3 overs) trapped Liam Livingstone for 10, while Nabi picked up his second as Sam Curran was out caught.
Inbetween, Naveen ul Haq bowled skipper Jos Buttler (9) with a brilliant in-swinger to rock English hopes.
Brook was the lone man standing, scoring his 50 off 45 balls, and he held one end together while hitting seven fours and a six overall. It was never going to be enough because of a lack of partnerships, especially as Mujeeb and Rashid ran through the line-up.
Earlier, Afghanistan made its intentions clear as Gurbaz went into slogging mode.
Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran (28) added 114 runs off only 100 balls for the first wicket. They crossed 50 off 39 deliveries, with the run-rate rising sharply every over.
Zadran hit three fours but Gurbaz did the greater damage, and scored 50 off only 33 balls.
England deployed its part-timers Root and Livingstone to support Rashid. Root bowled Shahidi for 14, while Livingstone got Azmatullah Omarzai (19).
Afghanistan had collapsed to 5-174 in 32.1 overs, losing five wickets for 60 runs as its batting frailties came to the fore again.
Ikram Alikhil, making his World Cup debut, rescued Afghanistan with 58 off 66, hitting three fours and two sixes. He got some late support from Rashid (23) and Mujeeb as the Afghans pushed past 250 and set up a score that helped them end a nine-match losing streak in World Cups.
“We are really disappointed. We came here wanting to put in a good performance,” Buttler said. “We got outplayed today. Afghanistan fully deserved their victory.”
Former shock defeats for England at the World Cup include losing to Zimbabwe in 1992 after being dismissed for 125. England famously lost to Ireland in 2011 when Kevin O’Brien hit what was then the fastest-ever World Cup century to lead the Irish to a three-wicket win. Ireland recovered from 111-5 to chase down 328.
Afghanistan next plays New Zealand in Chennai on Wednesday, while England faces South Africa in Mumbai on Saturday.
The tournament continues Monday with Australia playing Sri Lanka in Lucknow.