by: Atika Mehboob TN Sport Pakistan:
Afghanistan achieved an unparalleled victory in their international cricket history, providing a major surprise at the 2023 World Cup by defeating England, the reigning champions, by 69 runs. This was largely under the dazzling Delhi floodlights with their brilliant spin-and-seam game.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz, the fearless 21-year-old, lit up the match with a robust 80 off 57 balls. Unfortunately, a run-out cut his remarkable innings short. Nonetheless, Ikram Alikhil stepped up, steering the lower order with an invaluable half-century on his World Cup debut, pushing the score to a challenging 285.
England, having chosen to bat second after winning the toss, might have expected an easy chase, especially given New Zealand’s breezy pursuit of a similar score earlier in the tournament. But Afghanistan’s bowlers, notably Fazalhaq Farooqi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, had other ideas. Their aggressive bowling during the powerplay set the tone.
Farooqi’s opening delivery, a sharp inswinging delivery, stunned the England camp as it trapped Jonny Bairstow leg-before-wicket. Bairstow’s disappointment was evident, but the decision stood firm even after a close DRS review.
The situation worsened for England when Joe Root fell to Mujeeb for just 11, clean bowled by a tricky delivery that kept low. Dawid Malan was the sole English batter who looked in control, scoring a 32 off 39 balls. Yet, Mohammad Nabi, celebrating his 150th ODI, deceived him with a beautifully flighted delivery, leading to his dismissal.
England’s chase seemed to wobble at 68 for 3. The usually aggressive Jos Buttler struggled against the Afghan attack, particularly Naveen-ul-Haq. He was dismissed for a paltry 9 from 18 balls.
From there on, England’s batters showed visible signs of struggle. Liam Livingstone managed just 10 runs before being dismissed by Rashid Khan. Sam Curran tried to anchor, but even he fell to Nabi’s crafty bowling. Harry Brook showed some resistance with a determined half-century, but it was evident the English side was under immense pressure.
Interestingly, while Afghanistan smashed eight sixes, England could manage just one, a stark contrast from their previous World Cup encounters.
Despite the dire situation, Reece Topley’s consecutive boundaries towards the end showed glimpses of hope, but they were merely consolation in what was largely a lackluster performance by the English team.