New Delhi: England nearly slipped on a potential banana skin but pulled their act together in time to notch up their second win of the World T20 beating Afghanistan by 15 runs in a group phase clash here on Wednesday.
England survived a batting collapse to post a respectable 142/7, chiefly due to Moeen Ali’s (41 not out) heroics down the batting order, pulling them from an abyss at the Ferozeshah Kotla stadium.
David Willey (20 not out) helped in rebuilding the innings, but only after a massive slump that saw them lose three wickets in an over.
Afghanistan came close to the target, but England always had the upper hand, ultimately restricting them to 127/9.
England jumped to the second spot in Group 1 with the win, behind the West Indies. Afghanistan exited the tournament after their third successive defeat.
Afghanistan needed their lynchpin Mohammad Shahzad to fire in the run chase after an impressive bowling effort in their Super 10 contest.
He began by edging the first ball he faced, an in-swinger from left-arm quick David Willey, to the third man boundary. A ball later, he went back to the pavilion, playing across a swinging delivery to be plumb in front of the stumps.
His early dismissal dispirited the Afghans who lost two more wickets inside the third over, skipper Asghar Stanikzai (1) and Gulbadin Naib (0).
England’s new-ball partners David Willey (2/23) and Chris Jordan (1/27) swung the ball intelligently to reduce the Afghans to 13/3.
They limped to 50 in the 11th over, losing half their side in the process and were in desperate need of an innings like Moeen Ali’s. But, sadly, no one rose to the task, though Shafiqullah (35) did bring them close.
Earlier, England exhibited aggression after winning the toss and taking first strike. But skipper Eoin Morgan’s decision proved to be hollow as opener Jason Roy (5) danced down the track to be castled by left-arm spinner Amir Hamza.
That brought the in-form man Joe Root in and he began to build a decent partnership with James Vince.
But a collapse in the last three balls of the sixth over pushed them on the backfoot. Vince (22) succumbed to the charms of off-spinner Mohammad Nabi, offering a simple caught and bowled opportunity.
Morgan (0) followed Vince back in the very next ball, shouldering arms to a bowl that came in. The slump turned into a crisis (12) when Root departed after an ugly mix-up with Ben Stokes to reduce the Englishmen from 41/1 to 42/4.
They reached 50 in the eight over but never quite recovered from the shock and lost two more wickets soon. The relatively grassy pitch didn’t have any voodoo but England were simply not able to apply themselves.
Jos Butler’s (6) strong drive was superbly caught by a pumped-up Nabi, diving at extra cover. Stokes (7) inside-edged a quicker flat-trajectoried delivery onto his stumps and in the process landed on his bum, summing up England’s poor effort with the bat.
At 85/7 in 14.3 overs, the picture looked bleak, Ali (41 not out) gave England a fighting total, pulling them past the 100-run mark in the 18th over, launching into some big shots in the penultimate over, scoring 25 off it.
He and fellow left-hander Willey (20 not out) stitched a 57-run stand in 5.3 overs , plundering 55 of the last 30 deliveries to give England a fighting chance.
Brief scores: England: 142/7 (Moeen Ali 41, James Vince 22; Mohammad Nabi 2/17, Rashid Khan 2/17). Afghanistan: 127/9 (Shafiqullah 35, Samiullah Shinwari 22; David Willey 2/23, Adil Rashid 2/18).