At the 35-over mark in either innings, both teams were almost equally placed. England were 199 for 2, while Afghanistan were 174 for 3 at the same stage. However, the intentions between the two teams could not have been more in contrast. England were just getting set for an all out attack. Afghanistan had already seemingly thrown in the towel and were content with just frustrating England on their way to victory.
The performance in those last fifteen overs turned out to be the difference, even if there was a sense of inevitability about the result once Eoin Morgan had hammered his way to a blistering 148 off 71 deliveries, helped by a world record 17 sixes in the innings. It helped England amass 397 for 6 in their innings, and Afghanistan could only muster 247 for 8 in reply, giving England a 150-run win and taking them to the top of the table.
Morgan’s assault meant England nearly doubled what they’d scored in the first 35 overs of the innings. From 199 for 2, they reached a dizzying 397 for 6 – out of which Morgan himself made 122 in just 47 balls. He had started off with the luxury of getting his eye in – 26 came off his first 24 balls, including back to back sixes off Gulbadin Naib and a sighter at both Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi. Then he took on the hapless legspinner.
Sixes rained off his bat like it was the only thing it was meant for. The leg side field was preferred, but the straight boundaries were peppered too. Within no time, Morgan had outscored Joe Root, who had walked in at the fall of World Cup debutant James Vince’s wicket for 26 in the 10th over. Root was in a purple patch himself, with two back-to-back hundreds before this game, but even he had to step back and watch Morgan go Hulk Smash on a wicket that looked like it was designed for just that.
Rashid leaked runs at an unprecedented rate in World Cups – he finished with the costliest figures ever in World Cups (110 in 9 overs), and could have ended with the worst of all time if he’d bowled his full quota. Rashid’s last four overs saw him give away 74 runs, Nabi gave away 23 in his final two while Dawlat Zadran conceded 41 off his last three. Such was England’s onslaught towards the end. The only bowlers to come out with some respectable figures were Gulbadin Naib, who took three for 68, and Mujeeb, who gave away 44 in his 10, but it was mostly because they bowled before the England captain had found his flow. Morgan smashed the last of his 17 sixes, writing his name into the record books, a ball before he fell to Naib in the 47th over. By then, England had already notched up this World Cup’s highest total. Moeen Ali smashing 31 off 9 took them to within a whisker of 400.
Morgan’s license to go on all out attack was thanks largely to England’s strong base at the start. They may have paled significantly in strokeplay and aggression, but Bairstow and Root’s stand of 120 put the hosts in the position to have a proper go at the bowlers at the death. started off cautiously, but slowly grew more confident as they spent more time in the middle. England’s run rate gradually rose with Bairstow dealing more in boundaries and Root happy to turn strike over.Afghanistan’s spinners struggled to get any control over the batsmen, with their premier spinners – Rashid and Nabi – failing to put a lid on the scoring. Bairstow eventually fell for 90, putting to end a 120-run stand, and getting Morgan into the game. At 164 for 2 in the 30th over, England still needed meaningful contributions from their middle order and that came from Morgan who left Afghanistan’s bowlers bruised and battered.Afghanistan’s only riposte seemed to be based on how well the promotion of Naib up the order worked for them. The captain swung his way to 37 off 28 balls, but the wickets of Noor Ali Zadran (0) and the captain a little later.