WORLD CUP: Morgan goes berserk; England thrash Afghanistan
Eoin Morgan broke the record for the number of sixes in a one-day international with an astonishing display of hitting in England’s 150-run World Cup win over Afghanistan.
The captain hammered 17 sixes in making 148 from 71 balls, his outrageous and audacious ball-striking providing stunning entertainment to an Old Trafford crowd that lapped it up.
Morgan went past the previous best of 16, jointly held by Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Rohit Sharma, and England’s total of 25 sixes also set a new record for any team in an ODI innings.
Jonny Bairstow made 90 and Joe Root 88 as the hosts racked up 397-6, their highest total in a World Cup match, bettering the 386-6 they piled on against Bangladesh only 10 days ago.
There was never any danger of Afghanistan even getting close to succeeding in the run-chase and they ended a processional second half of the game on 247-8. The win lifts England to the top of the 10-team table, ahead of Australia on net run-rate.
Victory against Sri Lanka at Headingley on Friday’s will leave Morgan’s men on the verge of the semi-finals. Afghanistan remain rooted to the bottom, having lost all five of their games.
Magnificent Morgan’s maximums
Taken in isolation, Morgan’s performance was awesome, yet it was made all the more impressive by two things.
Firstly, this was the same player that was debilitated by a back spasm in Friday’s win over West Indies. He could barely walk up the pavilion steps, was unable to sit in his post-match news conference and was a doubt to play in this game.
In addition, it was a complete contrast to the first part of England’s innings. For as comfortable as Bairstow and Root were on a used wicket against some respectable bowling, their progress was little more than sedate.
Morgan changed all that. When he arrived at the end of the 30th over, England were 164-2. With the left-hander as the catalyst, the final 15 overs brought 198 runs in a blur of six-hitting that turned fielders into spectators and spectators into fielders.
When Afghanistan dropped short, he heaved the ball over the leg side, often into the massive temporary stand. When the ball was pitched up, he smashed it straight.
He had one life, on 28, when Dawlat Zadran barely got one hand to a chance at deep mid-wicket. After that, Morgan pummelled 120 from his next 46 balls to the delight of the crowd who at one point were singing his name.
His first fifty came from 36 balls and his second from 21. In the 14 balls he faced after reaching three figures, one of which got him out, he plundered 47 runs.
When he was dismissed, caught at long-off, he received a handshake from bowler and opposite number Gulbadin Naib, then departed to a rapturous standing ovation.
England march on
England are slowly growing into this tournament and, in doing so, have put their sole defeat by Pakistan – a game in which their fielding was awful – well behind them.
Sterner tests await. They still have group games against Australia, New Zealand and India to come, but it may be that victory on Friday is enough to secure a place in the last four.
This was the type of contest which England teams of the past would have approached with nervous trepidation, yet, bar two Bairstow dropped catches, Morgan’s men ruthlessly dealt with the weakest team in the tournament.
Four of their batsmen have made hundreds – no other team has more than two centurions – and, in a competition where extreme pace has yielded the greatest success, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood have 21 wickets between them.
England will dearly wish for Jason Roy to be fit for at least the knockout stages. With the opener absent because of a hamstring injury, James Vince made a characteristically handsome 26, then holed out in characteristically frustrating fashion.
Afghanistan’s awful time
Even before this game, Afghanistan were not having an enjoyable time in Manchester. On Monday night, police had to be called to a restaurant after an altercation between some of their squad and a member of the public.
They lost an important toss on Tuesday – this game might have been different had their spinners been giving a total to defend.
But that did not excuse a fielding performance littered with errors or bowling that crumbled in the face of Morgan’s assault.
Rashid Khan, their star leg-spinner, conceded 110 runs from nine overs, the joint second-worst return in ODI history and the most expensive in a World Cup match.
When Archer bowled Noor Ali Zadran in the second over of the reply, there was the feeling that a batting line-up which had already struggled in this tournament could disintegrate.
To their credit, they showed some great spirit, none more so than Hashmatullah Shahidi, who made 76 despite a sickening blow to the helmet from Wood. (BBC Sport)