England thrash Afghanistan to reach World T20 last eight

Defending champions England sealed a crushing 116-run win over Afghanistan in their first match of the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in Colombo.

England thrash Afghanistan to reach World T20 last eight

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ngland's Luke Wright (R) hits out watched by Afghanistan's Mohammad Shahzad during their ICC World Twenty20 group A cricket match at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo September 21, 2012 (Reuters)

England were put in to bat first by the associate nation, who had pushed India hard in their opening match, and made 196 for five from their 20 overs, thanks in no small part to Luke Wright's unbeaten 99.

Afghanistan had little chance of chasing the total, but capitulated as they attempted to do so, beaten by pace and back of a length bowling.

At one point the minnows were just 26 for eight, and set to post the worst T20 total in international history - but a punchy 44 from 32 balls from Gulbodin Naib salvaged some pride.

The result means that Afghanistan's tournament is over, however, and both England and India have booked their place in the last eight of the tournament ahead of their clash on Sunday.

The next stage is the Super Eight, a second group stage featuring two groups of four. England will be in Group E by virtue of their seeding, with hosts Sri Lanka also already through to face them.

If the seedings go as projected, New Zealand and the West Indies would join them after the first group stage is completed.

England did not spring any surprises with their team selection, with Danny Briggs missing out in favour of three seamers and Samit Patel retaining his place.

But having been inserted by Afghanistan, they found themselves in trouble early on thanks to a wicket maiden from Shapoor Zadran. The left-arm seamer pegged Craig Kieswetter back and then forced him to play on to his stumps for a duck from the sixth ball of the innings.

Wright joined Alex Hales at the crease, and after a hesitant start with the Afghanistan team bowling well, England steadied themselves.

And after the fifth over, in which Shapoor was hit for 23 runs, England took control.

Hales was unfortunate to go, run out backing up after a crisp straight drive from Wright flicked spinner Karim Sadiq's hand and broke the stumps.

Morgan then played the foil role as Wright continued to attack. He reached his fifty from 34 balls, including a five boundaries and a couple of sixes, and as the pressure built on Afghanistan, their fielding and discipline suffered.

Wides, no balls and mis-fields hurt them, and even as Morgan (27) fell, the cameos from Jos Buttler (15 from 7 balls) Jonny Bairstow (12 from 5) kept the momentum going.

Meanwhile Wright bore down on a landmark score, hitting three sixes in a row to bring his century in sight. He required three runs from the final ball to reach it, but could only loop the ball out to midwicket for a couple of runs.

He became only the second player to score 99 in a T20 international - the other was team-mate Hales earlier this year - and still no English batsman has a T20 century to their name.

But despite missing out on his own milestone, Wright, who has only just returned to the team after ousting Ravi Bopara, had helped set out a score which was too daunting for Afghanistan.

They began poorly in pursuit of it, and threatened to embarrass themselves.

Mohammad Shahzad and Shafiqullah both skied short balls for simple, if steepling, catches in the first seven balls. Nawroz Mangal then fell, victim of a sharp return catch off the bowling of Stuart Broad, before more impressive fielding from Buttler produced a run out, and a sensational catch in the deep accounted for Ashgar Stanikzai.

Things got worse still when spin was introduced - Samiullah Shenwari holed out to Graeme Swann in the deep, before Mohammad Nabi was bowled by Patel and Dawlat Zadran followed, stumped three balls later.

Afghanistan's tournament was over, but they refused to go out on a bum note, with Naib lashing three sixes and five boundaries in a counter-attacking innings that took them from ignominy past 67, the lowest score ever posted in a T20 international (by Kenya against Sri Lanka in the 2007 World T20), up to 80, before he offered Eoin Morgan a simple catch at point.

England will face sterner challenges, but the crushing nature of their victory may make those critics who have been dismissive of their chances of defending their title in the subcontinent reappraise their view.

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