On a day ruined by rain, England bid adieu to the 2015 World Cup at the Sydney Cricket Ground on a disappointing note. Despite their victory over Afghanistan in the last league match, the mood in the English camp was as dismal as the weather in Sydney on Friday. The Afghanis were asked to bat first after England won the toss but their innings was interrupted by rain off-and-on. The length of the match was first revised to 36.2 overs, in which Afghanistan had scored 111/7. Later unplayable conditions at the SCG made it necessary to further revise the match to 25 overs for England, who had been set to score 101 runs in 25 overs for victory. It could have been worse for England if the match had been washed out. But the weather Gods smiled on England in the funniest way as play was finally made possible. In the end, England reached the victory mark for the loss of one wicket with nearly seven overs still remaining. It wasn’t a particularly satisfactory way for England to end their World Cup campaign but if the match had been abandoned, it would have brought their worst ever World Cup performance. It doesn’t mean that they ended with anything better. When they go back home, many days will be spent in analyzing reasons for the pitiful performance and both Eoin Morgan and the England coach could get the axe.
England won the toss and put the Afghanis in. The Afghanistan batsmen found the going difficult against England’s frontline bowlers and began losing wicket after openers Javed Ahmadi and Nawroz Mangal put up 17 runs in the seventh over. Mangal was the first to depart, when he hung his bat to an away going ball from Anderson and the edge flew to Joe root at first slip. The normally ebullient Mangal spent 25 minutes at the crease and faced 28 balls for his 4 runs. That tells about the pressure he faced from England’s pace bowlers. Ahmadi was the next batsman to get out in the 8th over for just 7 in 15 balls that he faced. After both openers were duly accounted, wickets began to tumble at clockwork regularity and by the 26th over, Afghanistan had reached 65/5. Shafiqullah and Mohammad Nabi added 28 runs for the sixth wicket and Afghanistan’s score in the 32nd over had reached 93/6. After scoring 30 off 64 balls, Shafiqullah got out in the 35th over. When the Afghanistan score reached 111/7 in 36.2 overs, it began raining yet again and in yet another huddle, the players waited for play to resume. The rains didn’t relent for long and the umpires decided to limit the match to 25 overs with a 101 victory target for England in accordance with the D/L method.
England were not expected to face much trouble in overhauling the victory mark. They began solidly but Afghan bowlers deserve a mention for bowling their heart out. The trio of Shapoor Zadran, Hamid Hassan and Dawlat Zadran presented a diverse appearance from physically menacing to utterly conventional. With an intimidating frame, Shapoor has the longest run of all the pace bowlers in the world. Regularly exceeding 140 kph, Hamid is the fastest of all Afghanis while Dawlat looks conventional. On Friday, all of them were made ineffective as Ian Bell and Alex Hales went about collecting their runs comfortably and sensibly. Ian Bell made a chanceless fifty and had the decency of displaying no celebratory emotions. Hales was the only wicket falling in the England innings, when he went to defend an express delivery from Hamid but couldn’t prevent an edge to the keeper. At 83/1 in the 14th over, England had all but reached the victory target but they didn’t hurry up needlessly. James Taylor took 20 balls for his 8 runs and Ian Bell remained unbeaten on 52 made from 56 balls as England finished at 101/1 in 18.1 overs.