England’s tournament-reviving win over South Africa was bordering on unfathomable. Set a whopping 230 for victory, Eoin Morgan’s side required the highest run chase in World T20 history, the second highest run chase ever in T20i cricket and 40 more than their previous best to avoid an ignominious early exit.
Powerful, accurate Jason Roy set the tone with a blistering start – England had 50 up in 17 balls – before classy, clinical Joe Root reinforced his position as one of the world’s best in all formats with a glittering 83 from 44 balls.
A fabulous, confidence-building victory from a perilous position but that is now consigned to history and Trevor Bayliss’ troops must quickly refocus on Afghanistan and getting out of the group, a task that is far from confirmed. England must be ruthless in their approach with progression via net run rates a real possibility in group one.
Overcoming rapidly improving associate nation Afghanistan – they gave the Proteas a fright on Sunday – is a must but a comprehensive win could be important too. If unbeaten West Indies complete a clean-sweep of the group (therein defeating South Africa on Friday) then England will just need to beat Sri Lanka in their final game on Saturday to qualify.
But if South Africa bounce back to beat the Windies then a heavy defeat of Sri Lanka will be necessary to pile the pressure on the Proteas for their final game against the same opposition on Monday. Three teams could finish the group on three wins and six points; no one wants the heartbreak of third and no place in the semi finals.
As we stand after two matches the West Indies have a net run rate of +0.893, South Africa +0.816, Sri Lanka -0.171 and England -0.408. There is work to do.
Moeen Ali joked that “we’ve not got the brains in our team to really think about run rates” and, while that is firmly tongue-in-cheek, the all-rounder is right that England must simply concentrate on two victories with maximum efficiency and see where it takes them.
When? Wednesday 23 March
Where? Kotla, Delhi
Start? 9:30am (GMT)
How to keep up with the action?
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Live on BBC Test Match Special from 9am
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Daily reports, interviews and features on ECB.co.uk
Eoin Morgan (Middlesex, capt), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), Sam Billings (Kent), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Liam Dawson (Hampshire), Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Liam Plunkett (Yorkshire), Adil Rashid (Yorkshire), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Jason Roy (Surrey), Ben Stokes (Durham), Reece Topley (Hampshire), James Vince (Hampshire), David Willey (Yorkshire).
Asghar Stanikzai (capt), Noor Ali Zadran, Mohammad Shahzad, Usman Ghani, Mohammad Nabi, Karim Sadiq, Shafiqullah Shafiq, Rashid Khan, Amir Hamza, Dawlat Zadran, Shapoor Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Samiullah Shenwari, Najibullah Zadran, Hamid Hassan.
Big game for…
Ben Stokes arrived at the crease against South Africa with the score 48-1 after nine balls and looked crestfallen to depart on 15 after slapping a presentable Kagiso Rabada delivery straight to Chris Morris on the boundary. The 24 year-old all-rounder has been simmering with bat and ball so far in India and is yet to show his immense talent in a T20 shirt. In 13 matches the Durham man averages 14.50 with a top score of 31 and has just four wickets, stats which suggest a telling, game-breaking contribution will arrive sooner rather that later.
Jason Roy’s stunning 43 from 16 balls in Friday’s run chase was arguably its most important, tone-setting aspect but Afghanistan opener Mohammad Shahzad did something similar against the same opponents two days later. The 28 year-old bashed 44 from 19 balls at the top of the order and meted out some particular treatment to Kyle Abbott, sending the fast bowler for three sixes and a four off his first over. The wicketkeeper-batsman averages more than 30 and how quickly England can get the burly opener out, with the corresponding impact on net run rate, could be crucial in the final shake up in group one.
Quotes from the captains
Eoin Morgan: “Our priority is on winning, this is a big game and we are certainly not taking Afghanistan for granted.
“First and foremost we need to go into that game with the right mindset. Focusing on anything else at the moment, given that there are two group games left, would be a little bit naive – actually stupid.”
Asghar Stanikzai: “In this World Cup many people thought that our games would be one-sided, but now [our opponents] are really preparing and planning, and scaring to be honest, that this is a side which can beat us.
T20i – 21 September 2011 in Colombo: England won by 116 runs
ODI – 13 March 2012 in Sydney: England won by nine wickets (D/L)
WT20 results and fixtures
16 March in Mumbai: lost to West Indies by six wickets
18 March in Mumbai: beat South Africa by two wickets
23 March in Delhi: vs Afghanistan
26 March in Delhi: vs Sri Lanka
17 March in Kolkata: lost to Sri Lanka by six wickets
20 March in Mumbai: lost to South Africa by 37 runs
23 March in Delhi: vs England
27 March in Mohali: vs West Indies
Did you know?
England have made 170 plus in eight of their last 11 T20 internationals.
Afghanistan star Mohammad Shahzad is ranked ninth in the world in T20i cricket. England’s Alex Hales is number three behind Australia’s Aaron Finch and India’s Virat Kohli.
Afghanistan are ranked ninth in the world in the ICC World T20 rankings. England are up from seventh to fifth after the victory over South Africa.
Afghanistan are coached by former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq. He averaged 49.60 in 120 Test matches but only played one T20i.