England’s hopes of defending the World Cup have suffered an almighty blow in Delhi, where underdogs Afghanistan pulled off a stunning upset to floor the 2019 champions.
Jos Buttler’s side were roundly outplayed on their way to a shock 69-run defeat on Sunday (Monday morning AEDT) and have now lost two of their first three games in India to leave their chances of emerging from the group stage hanging by a thread.
Set 285 to win after putting their opponents at the Arun Jaitley Stadium, England imploded, bowled out for 215 in front of a frenzied crowd at who cheered Afghanistan’s triumph as if it were glorious home win.
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In terms of English stumbles on the biggest stage in one-day cricket this was a result to rank alongside the 2011 loss to Ireland in Bengaluru – a game that current Afghanistan head coach Jonathan Trott played in.
Afghanistan are a more talented side but two thumping losses against India and Bangladesh, allied with England’s hard-won reputation in white-ball cricket, still made this a seismic result.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan celebrate the upset. Credit: Darrian Traynor/ICC via Getty Images
Afghanistan were dismissed for 284 with one ball of their innings remaining, before only Harry Brook could offer any serious resistance with a 61-ball 66 in England’s reply which came to an end with 9.3 overs still remaining.
It was only the Afghans’ second-ever win at the World Cup, the other coming against Scotland in 2015 in their first appearance.
Spinners Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan, who took three wickets each, were Afghanistan’s bowling heroes.
Mujeeb picked up the key wickets of Joe Root and Brook to set up a famous win and he picked up the player of the match award.
Rashid said he hoped the victory would put a smile on the faces of people back in Afghanistan, where multiple earthquakes have killed around 1000 and injured over 2000.
Buttler looked drained and drawn by events at the Arun Jaitley Stadium and accepted his side would need to feel some pain before plotting their response.
“It’s really disappointing. We came here today wanting to put in a really good performance and we got outplayed,” he said.
“You’ve got to let these defeats hurt. Let it hurt; then try to figure out where we need to get better.
“It never feels good; you never like losing games of cricket or not performing to the level you want to.
“As a whole, we were not at the level we would like to be in a World Cup. On the field and off it, we will be trying to put it right.
“It’s a big setback. Before the tournament started it’s not how you would have looked at the first three results.
“We’ve got to show a lot of character, a lot of resilience within the team and most of all a lot of belief.”
Jos Buttler looked drained by the defeat. Credit: Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Former England batter Jonathan Trott, forging a new path now as the Afghanistan head coach, was left beaming after landing the biggest scalps of his career.
“It’s always nice. I think I’ll take any victory. I’m very proud of the performance, whether it’s against England or not,” he said.
“I know that the players and the coaching staff deserve it. I’m very keen not to put a dampener on things.
“I never soaked up enough or enjoyed moments like this. I’m certainly going to say to the guys, ‘enjoy tonight and, spend the time together, whatever you want to do’.
“If this can bring a smile to people’s faces anywhere in the world, but also encourage boys and girls to pick up a cricket bat or a cricket ball and get playing cricket in Afghanistan, then that’s the sort of the goal that’s been achieved.”
Ben Stokes was a bystander throughout, still sidelined by a hip injury, and he will now need another trademark miracle to turn around his country’s fortunes.
Afghanistan put England under pressure from the off, Rahmanullah Gurbaz dominating with 80 off 57 balls in an opening stand of 114, and Ikram Alikhil later chipping in with a key half-century when it looked as the Afghans were losing their way.
For the third game in a row, the usually dependable Chris Woakes set a poor tone, with the first ball of the match disappearing through Buttler’s legs for five wides before Gurbaz teed off.
Woakes coughed up 31 from his first three overs while Sam Curran edged him for the worst figures of the day – 4-0-46-0.
England are fifth in the group standings with one win from three matches, one place ahead of Afghanistan.
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