After a lot of one-sided matches, the 2023 Men’s ODI World Cup was craving for an upset win and Afghanistan delivered the same with a shocking 69-run victory over defending champions England at the Arun Jaitley Stadium here on Sunday.
With a healthy amount of home support for them in the crowd of 26,440 in the stadium, Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ikram Alikhil slammed 80 off 53 balls and 58 off 66 deliveries respectively in carrying Afghanistan to 284 in 49.5 overs.
In defence, Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman took three wickets each in an impressive bowling performance to bowl out England for 215 in 40.5 overs. With this, Afghanistan end their 14-match losing streak in World Cups with the biggest win of their ODI history till date, to send shockwaves in the tournament as well as in the cricketing world.
Afghanistan are now at sixth place in points table, just behind England, while Australia are now at bottom of the ten-team tally. Chasing 285, England were dealt an early blow when Jonny Bairstow was trapped lbw on first ball of Fazalhaq Farooqui, which he reviewed immediately. The replay showed the ball clipping leg-stump on umpire’s call, meaning England retained review, but lost Bairstow.
Though Dawid Malan and Joe Root picked some boundaries, Farooqui continued to bowl probing line and length – like he squared up Malan, hit him on pads (and burnt a review), then beating him. Afghanistan increased pressure on England when Mujeeb Ur Rahman castled Root with a googly that stayed low.
Malan and Harry Brook tried stabilising the chase with strike-rotation and a few boundaries, but Mohammad Nabi took out the former by deceiving him with an outside off-stump delivery which he chipped straight to short extra cover.
Naveen-ul-Haq produced a peach of a delivery – fuller ball coming in from wide outside the off-stump – to castle Jos Buttler through the gate. Rashid entered wicket-takers’ list by trapping Liam Livingstone plumb lbw with a straighter delivery. Livingstone tried to overturn, but it went in vain.
With Brook at the crease and striking boundaries whenever deliveries either wide or overpitched were given to reach his fifty in 35 balls, England held their hopes high. But with boundaries drying up, Nabi struck by using dip, turn and bounce to draw Sam Curran forward and get him edge to slip.
Chris Woakes survived an lbw appeal against Mujeeb, but the spinner finally got his man when he got the googly to go past inside edge and crashed into the off-stump. Mujeeb struck the killer blow by having Brook nick behind a quicker carrom ball to Ikram Alikhil. Rashid had Adil Rashid caught at slip, and despite Reece Topley delaying the inevitable, the leg-spinner castled Mark Wood to send crowd into jubilant frenzy.
Earlier, Afghanistan were cruising on a flat pitch at 111-0 in 16 overs, with Gurbaz being unstoppable in his knock, at the centre of which was capitalising on loose balls from England’s fast bowlers. But Adil led a vicious spin web to trigger an Afghanistan collapse, taking his best-ever World Cup figures of 3-42.
From 190-6, Alikhil made a crucial fifty and was supported by cameos from Rashid and Mujeeb to get Afghanistan to a competitive total. Gurbaz began his scintillating show by pulling a wayward Woakes over mid-wicket for six, followed by Ibrahim Zadran cutting him for four past a sloppy Jonny Bairstow.
Gurbaz cashed on struggles of Woakes over a flat pitch by driving and slicing off him for back-to-back boundaries, followed by him and Zadran taking a four each off Topley. Post Afghanistan reaching its fifty in just 43 balls, there was just no respite for England’s bowlers.
Curran, brought into the attack in place of Woakes, there was no change as the left-arm pacer bowled a no-ball on the second delivery of the ninth over and Gurbaz smacked him for two boundaries through cover and fine leg before hammering a pull over mid-wicket for six, as 20 runs came off ninth over.
Post Afghanistan making 79-0 in first power-play, its best-ever start in a World Cup, Gurbaz reached his fifty in 33 balls by sweeping Adil powerfully past square leg for four. He took a liking to Wood’s raw-pace by upper-cutting over backward point for six and pulling to take another boundary.
After an hour of being under the pump, England had a breakthrough as Zadran heaved straight to short mid-wicket off Adil, followed by the leg-spinner having Rahmat Shah stumped cheaply. One brought two for England as Gurbaz was run-out for 80 after going for a non-existent single.
Seeing Rashid fetching wickets, England brought in Livingstone and Root from both ends – a move which worked wonders as Azmatullah Omarzai miscued loft to long-off and Hashmatullah Shahidi was castled by the latter, followed by Nabi being bounced out by Wood.
Rashid got the loudest cheer of the day from the crowd when he got off the mark with a superb drive through extra-cover for four off Wood and hit two more boundaries as Afghanistan went past 200. He found support from Alikhil, who took two fours off Topley in a nice 43-run stand.
But Rashid fell in a bid to attack against Adil, as Root took a stunning diving catch in the outfield. Mujeeb played a crucial hand by hammering boundaries off Curran, second of which was off a no-ball.
He then pulled Curran on a free-hit over mid-wicket for six and got an outside edge off Wood for four, followed by Alikhil getting his third ODI fifty. But he and Mujeeb holed out in quick succession, followed by Naveen-ul-Haq being run-out as Afghanistan’s innings ended with enough to engineer a historic day in their ODI history.
Brief Scores: Afghanistan 284 in 49.5 overs (Rahmanullah Gurbaz 80, Ikram Alikhil 58; Adil Rashid 3-42, Mark Wood 2-50) beat England 215 in 40.3 overs (Harry Brook 66, Dawid Malan 32; Rashid Khan 3-37, Mujeeb Ur Rahman 3-51) by 69 runs