England soar to victory over Afghans
England, the defending champions, made the ideal start to their ICC World T20 campaign when they hammered Afghanistan by 116 runs in their opening game at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Friday.
Full Scorecard: Afghanistan v England
After losing the toss and being sent in to bat, England rode on the back of Luke Wright's fiery 99 not out off just 55 balls to post 196 for five, the highest score of the tournament thus far.
Afghanistan were in serious danger of making the lowest ever score in T20 internationals when they crashed to 26 for eight in reply, but Gulbodin Naib restored the pride of the gutsy minnows and entertained the sparse crowd as he belted 44 off 32 balls to lift Afghanistan to 80 all out.
Wright batted with tremendous power to batter eight fours and six sixes, leading the charge as England blazed 122 runs in the last 10 overs to surge to a massive total.
The pace of Shapoor Zadran caused England some early troubles, and he claimed the wicket of Craig Kieswetter, playing the ball onto his own stumps, for a duck to end the first over with a wicket-maiden.
But Wright and Alex Hales made sure England made full use of the last two overs of the powerplay, smashing 37 runs from them and England were 52 for one after six overs.
Even though England lost the wicket of Hales, for 31 off 27 balls, in the most unfortunate of ways as Karim Sadiq deflected Wright's straight drive onto the non-striker's stumps, it was obvious England were well set for a big total with Wright going strongly at the halfway mark on 38 not out off 26 balls and the world No 1 on 74 for two.
Wright hit the off-spin of Mohammad Nabi for a six and two fours in the 16th over, Eoin Morgan also contributing a six as 22 runs came from the over.
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Nabi had bowled his first two overs for 10 runs but finished with none for 46 in his four-over stint.
Wright's marvellous ball-striking reached its peak in the penultimate over as he smashed the last three balls of Izatullah Dawlatzai's over for six. The unfortunate seamer conceded 56 runs in three overs, the most expensive three-over spell in T20 international history.
Dawlatzai did, however, claim the wickets of Morgan, for 27 off 23 balls, and Jos Buttler, for 15 off seven.
There was also a useful cameo from Jonny Bairstow, who hit his first ball for six and ended with 12 off five balls.
Considering the carnage, Dawlat Zadran's figures of one for 22 in four overs were remarkable and he prevented Wright from notching England's first T20 international century by restricting him to just a couple of singles and two runs to midwicket off the last ball of the over.
England's display with the ball was amazing as they reduced Afghanistan to 22 for five inside six overs.
Captain Stuart Broad claimed two early wickets and there was the run-out of Karim Sadiq for five as well, before the spinners, Samit Patel (3-0-6-2) and Graeme Swann (4-2-22-2), chipped in to reduce Afghanistan to a catastrophic 26 for eight after nine overs.
Gulbodin took it upon himself to save Afghanistan from unwanted history as he belted five fours and three sixes, but the yawning gap between the plucky good-news story of the competition and the defending champions was only too obvious.
AFGHANISTAN: Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Nawroz Mangal (capt), Karim Sadiq, Asghar Stanikzai, Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shenwari, Shafiqullah, Gulbodin Naib, Izatullah Dawlatzai, Dawlat Zadran, Shapoor Zadran
ENGLAND: C Kieswetter (wk), AD Hales, LJ Wright, EJG Morgan, JM Bairstow, JC Buttler, SR Patel, SCJ Broad (capt), GP Swann, ST Finn, JW Dernbach