World T20: Moeen Ali thwarts Afghanistan’s hopes to keep England in semis race

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Image Courtesy: © Twitter - ICC

World T20: Moeen Ali thwarts Afghanistan’s hopes to keep England in semis race

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Arun S Kaimal


Moeen Ali’s all-round performance with bat and ball helped England register a 15-run victory against Afghanistan at Delhi on Wednesday. Batting first, England were in a spot of bother at 57/6 before Moeen Ali played a mature knock of 41 from 33 balls to take England to 142/7.

Brief Scores: England 142/7 in 20 overs (Moeen Ali 41*(33), James Vince 22(18), Nabi 2/17, Rashid Khan 2/17) beat Afghanistan 127/9 in 20 overs (Shafiqullah 35*(20), Samiullah Shenwari 22(27,) Rashid 2/18, Willey 2/23) by 15 runs

Chasing 143, Afghanistan got off to a poor start losing opener Mohammad Shahzad in the first over after David Willey trapped the dangerous right-hander right in front of the stumps. Skipper Asghar Stanikzai and Gulbadin Naib also departed in quick succession to leave Afghanistan in a bit of trouble at 13/3. With the team needing quick runs, Rashid Khan came up the order as a pinch-hitter, but an attempted lofted cover drive off Moeen Ali ended the right hander’s innings for 15, which included a crunching flat six behind square off Jordan.

Wickets continued to tumble for the Afghans as spinners Moeen Ali and Rashid Khan swamped all over the batsmen giving them no chance to score runs. Noor Ali Zadran gifted a simple return catch to Rashid, while Mohammad Nabi tried to hit the leggie out of the park and found Jordan near the long-on boundary to give Rashid his second wicket of the match.

Shafiqullah and Samiullah Shenwari entertained the crowd with some hefty blows in the final overs, but it proved to be not enough as they ended their innings 16 runs short to give England a win. With the victory, England moved to the second place in Group 1 to keep their hopes of a semi-final spot intact.

Earlier, England captain Eoin Morgan won the toss and decided to bat first in hot and sunny conditions at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi. Swashbuckling opener Alex Hales sat the match out with a stiff back paving the way for James Vince, while veteran pacer Liam Plunkett came into the XI in place of Reece Topley. On the other hand, Afghanistan remained unchanged and opted to go into the match with the same team that gave a scare to South Africa at Wankhede in the last match.

England got off to a slow start with spinner Amir Hamsa and pacer Shapoor Zadran keeping the openers on a tight leash in the initial overs. The run drought forced Jason Roy to venture out of the crease in search of runs and it led to his downfall as Amir Hamsa grabbed the first wicket of the day by knocking the stumps back. Root arrived next and got off the mark with a six over midwicket off Shapoor Zadran, continuing his good run in the tournament.

But, it turned upside down for England in the last over before the powerplay after Mohammad Nabi removed Vince and Morgan in two consecutive deliveries. The bad became worse for England two balls later as the in-form Root also departed after a misunderstanding between the right-hander and Stokes led to a cheap run-out. Nabi, at the bowler’s end, almost made a mess of it by removing the bails without the ball, but kept his composure to pull out the stumps.

Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes also joined their predecessors shortly as England went from 41/1 in the fourth over to 57/6 in a matter of six overs to leave the team looking down the barrel against Afghanistan in a dustbowl of a wicket. Moeen Ali and Chris Jordan joined hands and took the team out of the woods with a 28-run partnership for the seventh wicket. But like his predecessors, Chris Jordan also fell to a spinner, this time giving Rashid Khan a simple return catch.

Although Jordan was gone, Moeen Ali stuck to his mission of taking England to some respectability and scored 53 runs in the last five overs along with David Willey to finish at 142/7. The duo took a special liking to the slow balls from Amir Hamza in the penultimate over and took him to the cleaners by smashing three sixes and a four. Ali finished as the highest run-scorer in the innings with 41 runs off 33 balls, including a six and 4 fours.

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