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England opened their T20 World title defence in style, crushing minnows Afghanistan in a virtual no-contest at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. Allrounder Luke Wright, batting at no.3, smashed his way to an unbeaten 99 to power England to a massive 196-5 in their 20 overs before the England bowlers routed the Asian newcomers for just 80 runs. The England bowlers shared around the wickets, and only one Afghani batsman made his way into double digits. A second consecutive defeat for Afghanistan means that their time with the big boys is over. England and India will advance to the Super Eights, and the two giants will collide on Sunday evening to identify which team will carry points through to the next stage of the competition.
The defending champions, England, got their ICC World T20 campaign underway on a bouncy track in Colombo on Friday evening. Afghanistan won the toss and opted to field first, and were rewarded right away as Shapoor Zadran continued his impeccable form by removing Craig Kieswetter for naught in the first over, a wicket maiden.
At the end of 4 overs, Afghanistan were firmly on top of the hosts, who were struggling to lay bat on ball, and had made just 15 runs. However, the game turned dramatically in the next couple of overs of the powerplay as England plundered 37 runs to bring their run rate up to nearly 9 at the end of the powerplay.
The introduction of the spinners and the field being spread slowed the run rate briefly, and Afghanistan were rewarded for their patience with the wicket of Alex Hales, run out for 31, backing up too far. At the end of 10 overs though England were well placed at 74-2.
Luke Wright and Eoin Morgan took England forward, adding 35 runs in the next 5 overs without taking any undue risks. With wickets in hand and just 5 overs left, the duo exploded, taking 22 runs off Mohammad Nabi's third over.
While England lost wickets towards the end of the innings in the pursuit of quick runs, Wright batted through till the very end, finishing unbeaten on 99 from just 55 balls to power England to a massive 196-5 from their 20 overs.
If Afghanistan were not already looking at Mission Impossible, their task got even tougher when they lost two wickets inside the first two overs with Steve Finn and Jade Dernbach striking rich. Mohammad Shahzad was caught at mid-off for 1, while Shafiqullah tried to smash the first ball he faced to the fence, but was well caught by substitute Ravi Bopara.
Afghanistan's collapse continued unabated with each of England's frontline bowlers getting in on the act. At the end of the 9th over, the visitors were 26-8 with no one getting close to going into double figures.
Gulbodin Nabi restored some pride for the minnows smashing 3 sixes and 5 boundaries to power his way to 44 from 32 balls to take Afghanistan to 80 all out. Shapoor Zadran, who had started the evening brilliantly, gave Nabi some useful company, making 9 and sharing in a 44-run stand to add some semblance of respectability to the scorecard.
Dernbach, Broad, Patel and Swann picked up two wickets a piece.
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: Craig Kieswetter (wk), Alex Hales, Luke Wright, Eoin Morgan, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Samit Patel, Stuart Broad (capt), Graeme Swann, Steven Finn, Jade Dernbach
England 196-5 (20 overs, 9.8rpo)
L Wright 99* (55) Izatullah Dawlatzai 2-56
A Hales 31 (27) Dawlat Zadran 1-22
Afghanistan 80 all out (17.2 overs, 4.61rpo)
G Nabi 44 (32) S Patel 2-6
England win by 116 runs
File Photograph Copyright: ICC World T20
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