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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Daniel Harris (earlier) and Rob Smyth (later)

England humbled by brilliant Afghanistan in historic upset: Cricket World Cup – as it happened

Afghanistan's Mujeeb Ur Rahman celebrates with his teammates.
Afghanistan's Mujeeb Ur Rahman celebrates with his teammates. Photograph: Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images

Yes it really, really did happen. Afghanistan hammered the world champions in Delhi and made 15 October 2023 a date their players will never forget. As bad as this is for England, who are now in serious trouble, there’s a bigger picture. The World Cup needed this result; international cricket needed Afghanistan to finally beat one of the big six. The cricket world has changed today – subtly, but indelibly. Afghanistan are at the top table now.

Thanks for your company and emails; I’ll leave you with Simon Burnton’s report. Goodnight.


Jos Buttler have just done another interview, this time with Athers on Sky Sports. It was the usual stuff, delivered almost on auto-pilot, but the last bit was interesting.

Mike Atherton So you still have faith in the group of players, given that two of the defeats have been quite heavy?

Jos Buttler [hardens his face and stares right into Atherton’s eyes] Yeah absolutely.

Buttler is tougher than people realise, with more of a temper than Eoin Morgan, and he turned the air blue in the dressing-room after a similar defeat to Ireland at last year’s World T20. It’ll be fascinating to see how he, and England, approach the game against South Africa.

This is the social context in which Afghanistan have made history. It’s hard to understand the kaleidoscop of emotions the players must be experiencing right now.

“What a win!” says James Male. “Congratulations Afghanistan. Here’s hoping this is the first of many... But I feel obliged to point out that the ICC’s decision to limit the WC pool post-2015 looks worse by the day. Could Ireland be the next Afghanistan? The Netherlands? Namibia? We’ll never know because they aren’t allowed to play at the prestige event of cricket. Not a good call imo.”

I’m torn on this, mainly because I don’t know how, say, a 14-team tournament would work in practice. There’s more jeopardy with this format, as England are finding out, though I appreciate that’s not the only consideration.

The Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi speaks

This is our best win and will give us confidence for the next game. The whole country will be proud and happy.

The way the openers started gave us momentum; credit goes especially to [Rahmanullah] Gurbaz. The coach and I believe in Ikram [Alikhil, who made a crucial 58] and he showed why today. We appreciate his effort.

Mujeeb batted brilliantly in the series against Pakistan as well. We needed him today and he scored important runs for us.

[On his three spinners] The whole world knows how good they are. It’s up to us to score enough runs to give them a chance. I was proud of them today.

The belief is there, so are the talent and trust. This is not the [end goal]. Moving forward, inshallah, we will be positive. This win means a lot to us. It was the first one, not the last one.

Jos Buttler’s verdict

Me missing the first ball set the tone early on. It’s a tough loss to take – congratulations to Afghanistan, they outplayed us today. Throughout the game we weren’t good enough with the ball or the bat. You’ve just gotta play better, find ways to impose yourself on the game and execute your skills.

They have a really skilful attack, with some fantastic spin bowlers especially. Maybe the dew didn’t come in as much as we expected.

[As he speaks, the camera shows a small boy, in tears of joy, hugging Mujeeb Ur Rahman]

The ball held a little bit and there was a bit of indifferent bounce. They put us under lots of pressure – they bowled dead straight, bringing the stumps into play, and we weren’t quite good enough today.

You’ve got to let these defeats hurt for a bit before you move on. We need to show some real resilience. We’ve got a lot of character in the group and we’ll come back fighting.

Afghanistan’s next match is against New Zealand on Wednesday. England play, gulp, South Africa on Saturday, knowing another defeat would leave them needing to beat India, Australia and Pakistan to have any chance of making the semi-finals. It hasn’t quite sunk in.


The player of the match is Mujeeb Ur Rahman, with his spin twin Rashid Khan on translation duties

It’s a very proud moment to beat the world champions. It’s a great achievement for the whole nation and something we have worked very hard for. It was a wonderful performance from the bowlers and the batters.

For spinners it’s pretty hard to bowl in the Powerplay. I’ve been bowling with the new ball in the nets, trying to be as consistent as possible. In the Powerplay I try to bowl stump to stump and that’s what I’ve been doing in the nets.

We knew the dew would play a part which is why I bowled six overs with the new ball. [On his batting] The management have given me a lot of confidence. I really want to contribute more with the bat – 25 runs can make a big difference.

This [player of the match[ trophy is for the people back home who have been affected by the earthquake in Herat. We dedicated this victory to them.

This is Afghanistan’s greatest victory, by a country mile, and one of the biggest shocks in the 38-year history of the World Cup. England had a stinker from the moment Jos Buttler chose to field and then let the first ball of the match go through for four wides. But this isn’t about England, not yet; it’s about a group of players who have craved a breakthrough victory at an ODI World Cup.

It’s a glorious triumph for two generation of Afghan cricketers, from the 21-year-old Rahmanullah Gurbaz, whose pulsating 57-ball 80 set a tone England could never quite reverse, to the 38-year-old Mohammad Nabi, whose crafty offspin picked up the wickets of Dawid Malan and Sam Curran.

The three famous spinners, Nabi, Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, had combined figures of 25.3-2-104-8. It was a classic trial by spin and England couldn’t cope. We shouldn’t ignore the quicker bowlers, particularly Fazalhad Farooqi and Naveen-ul-Haq.

Their figures don’t look great but they played a key part. Fazalhad dismissed Jonny Bairstow with his first ball to give England some jitters, then Naveen dismissed Jos Buttler with a marvellous bit of bowling. It’s Afghanistan’s day, now and forever.


Afghanistan beat England by 69 runs!!

WICKET! England 215 all out (Wood b Rashid 17) Four years ago, Rashid Khan disappeared for 110 off nine overs against England at the World Cup. Today, in entirely different circumstances, he gets to bowl a tenth over.

Rashid deserves to take the final wicket – and he’s done it! Wood misses, Rashid hits, and Afghanistan have completed an extraordinary victory.


40th over: England 213-9 (Wood 17, Topley 14) Topley hits Fazalhaq for three successive boundaries to prolong Bangladesh’s wait. The England coach Matthew Mott smiles wryly. Jos Buttler continues to stare down a small dot precisely 1,000 yards away.

England’s Nos 9-11 have all outscored six of the top eight.

39th over: England 199-9 (Wood 16, Topley 1) Dropped him! Wood blasts Rashid to cover, where Fazalhaq can’t hold onto an awkward chance as the ball dies on him. The upshot is that Fazalhaq will now have the chance to take the glory wicket.


Out walks the No11 Reece Topley. Rashid Khan has two balls left in his ninth over. Who’s written his script?

WICKET! England 198-9 (Rashid c Nabi b Rashid 20)

Nine down, one to go. Adil Rashid pushes at a gorgeous legbreak from Rashid Khan and is well caught by Nabi at slip. Afghanistan are one wicket away from the greatest moment in their cricketing history!

38th over: England 196-8 (Rashid 19, Wood 15) Brook faced around a third of the strike in his partnerships with Curran and Woakes, which is when he started to lose his rhythm. That said, I don’t think it changed the result. From the moment Jos Buttler was bowled, England were in a deep hole.

Wood opens the face to steer Fazalhaq for four, another accomplished stroke. In the context of England’s struggles, he and Rashid are playing surprisingly well.

“I’m close to bursting with this,” writes Romeo. “I’ve been following and supporting Afghanistan for well over a decade and flew 1500 miles to see them at Lord’s against MCC six years ago. Just thinking about it, let alone writing about it, is rather
tempting the gods but I can’t help myself.”

37th over: England 190-8 (Rashid 18, Wood 10) Mujeeb gifts England four overthrows off his own bowling. There’s no sense of drama, though – Afghanistan still have loads of runs to play with, and England don’t bat down to No11 today.

Mujeeb ends a brilliant evening’s work with figures of 10-1-51-3, including the vital wickets of Joe Root and Harry Brook. He bashed a 16-ball 28 with the bat as well.

“While I don’t think it’s over yet...” says Arul Kanhere, “England and Australia are really messing up a lot of pre-tournament predictions.”

Quite. I suppose the only previous World Cups with a league phase were won by teams who were backed into a corner, Pakistan in 1992 and England in 2019, so maybe that will liberate England and/or Australia. But I don’t fancy their chances right now.


36th over: England 182-8 (Rashid 12, Wood 8) Every now and then, a statistic is worth repeating. This is Afghanistan’s 18th World Cup match, and their only previous victory was against Scotland. They’ve played 19 ODIs against the big six nations, losing 18 and tieing one. This is the breakthrough victory they have craved for almost a decade.

Rashid Khan returns, and it would be perfect if he takes the final wicket. Not yet: Rashid hits him for four, Wood plays and misses at consecutive deliveries and then hacks another boundary to cow corner. The defiance is admirable; it’s also futile.

“How could Woakes review,” says David Peters, “I thought England were out of reviews?”

I messed it up (see 26th over)

35th over: England 173-8 (Rashid 7, Wood 4) Mark Wood, defiant to the last, pumps Mujeeb over mid-off for four. His batting changed the Ashes but England need more than an eight-ball 24 tonight. This is amazing.


Harry Brook, who lost a bit of rhythm after being starved of the strike, has gone for 66. He tried to force a quicker ball from Mujeeb, whose second spell has been majestic, and got a thin edge to the keeper. It was a really good catch from Ikram Alikhil. Brook played extremely well, almost on a different pitch, but it’s over for England now.

WICKET! England 169-8 (Brook c Ikram b Mujeeb 66)

Afghanistan aren’t going to beat England – they’re going to thrash them!


34th over: England 168-7 (Brook 66, Rashid 6) Jonathan Trott, who had a strange ODI career with England, is the Afghanistan coach, which makes this an even better story. The new batter Adil Rashid gets off the mark with a jaunty flick for four off Naveen, and another four singles make it a decent over for England. All they can do is try to take it deep. They need 117 from 96 balls.

“I don’t want to calculate Woakes’ personal net run rate today,” says Niall Mullen. “It’s been ugly.”

Arf. I wouldn’t be too critical of his innings with the bat; every England player apart from Brook has really struggled. I don’t have my xWickets program running, but my instinct is that a score of 170-odd for seven flatters England.


33rd over: England 160-7 (Brook 64, Rashid 0) Harry Brook shares a joke with the new batter Adil Rashid. Who says defeat has to be depressin’?

Mujeeb teased Woakes every which way in the course of a superb over, and put him out of his misery with the final ball. Woakes tried to whip to leg and was bowled through the gate. He goes for 9 from 26 balls, having inadvertently starved Brook of the strike. A wicket maiden from Mujeeb.

WICKET! England 160-7 (Woakes b Mujeeb 9)

Wonderful bowling from Mujeeb Ur Rahman!

Chris Woakes of England is bowled by Mujeeb ur Rahman of Afghanistan.
Chris Woakes of England is bowled by Mujeeb ur Rahman of Afghanistan. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images


Review: Woakes is not out!

Woakes was trapped in front by a skiddy offbreak from Mujeeb that kept low. It was legsideish, so Woakes reviewed – and replays showed it was just going down. Goodness me.

WICKET! England 160-7 (Woakes LBW b Mujeeb 9)

And now they’re even bigger favourites!

32nd over: England 160-6 (Brook 64, Woakes 9) Naveen replaces Nabi, whose figures of 6-0-16-2 do not flatter him. Woakes gets his first boundary with an excellent drive through extra cover. He’s beaten by the next ball, then edges a big drive for a single, after which Naveen gives one of his teammates a mouthful.

England need 125 from 108 balls. If they can take it deep, Afghanistan may start to fear a repeat of the agonising defeats to Pakistan and India at the last World Cup. Right now, though, they are strong favourites.

Does anyone have a link to the TMS commentary for those who live overseas?

31st over: England 154-6 (Brook 63, Woakes 4) Mujeeb replaces Rashid, who bowled a screw-turning spell of 7-1-23-1. Woakes steals a single to mid-on, though he would have been in trouble with a clean pick up, and then Brook hoicks a poor ball over long leg for six. That’s the first six of the innings and the first boundary in nine overs.

While Brook is at the crease, England still have hope of a minor miracle. When England asked him to stand in for Ben Stokes, I don’t think a Stokesian, one-man runchase was what was they had in mind.

30th over: England 143-6 (Brook 53, Woakes 3) This is Nabi’s sixth over, which means he, Rashid and Mujeeb have 11 left between them. That’s too many for England to just see them off, but at the moment Woakes (3 from 15 balls) is struggling to do anything other than survive. He whips across a big offbreak that hits the pad, prompting another LBW appeal. It would have missed leg stump.


29th over: England 141-6 (Brook 52, Woakes 3) Rashid, who is having a whale of a time, bowls a superb maiden to Woakes, culminating in a quicker ball that beats the edge. The required rate is racing towards seven an over.

28th over: England 141-6 (Brook 52, Woakes 3) This is increasingly astonishing. Afghanistan are four wickets away from beating the world champions.

“I’m perversely loving this, and (non-condescendingly) really chuffed for Afghanistan who have always looked the most likely of the minnow nations…” says Mark Hooper. “That said, I think Woakes, Rashid and Wood could make it an interesting end.”

I think they need too many. The only way they can get close is if Brook plays an all-timer.


WICKET! England 138-6 (Curran c Rahmat b Nabi 10)

England are in abundant doodoo. Curran feels for another beautifully flighted delivery from Nabi and edges low to slip.

27th over: England 138-5 (Brook 52, Curran 10) Rashid, in his sixth over, beats Brook with a quicker, fuller, wider delivery. This is a cracking contest between two brilliant young players. Rashid is an ODI veteran and Brook a newbie, yet there’s only five months between them.

Four singles make it a decent over for England. At some stage they will have to go after the bowling. But not yet.

26th over: England 134-5 (Brook 50, Curran 8) Harry Brook, alone on the burning deck, drives Nabi for a single to reach a sparkling, outlierish half-century from 45 balls. England need him to double it and then some.

“My TV feed says England have one more review,” says Beau Dure. “But it also says England still have a chance to win, so take that for what it’s worth.”

Yep, I’ve cocked that up – Bairstow’s dismissal was umpire’s call, so he didn’t waste a review. Don’t I look like an eejit now.

25th over: England 132-5 (Brook 49, Curran 7) Brook plays around a googly from Rashid Khan. Afghanistan go up for LBW but it’s missing leg, and Rashid has no interest in a review. Afghanistan have two remaining; England have none. As the late Martin Johnson might have said, England have only four problems today: they can’t bat, can’t bowl, can’t field and can’t review.

24th over: England 129-5 (Brook 48, Curran 5) Nabi replaces Azmatullah, so the first time we have spin at both ends. Three low-risk singles from the over. England need 156 from 156 balls.

“You told us this would be tough,” says Ian Copestake. “How dare you know what you are talking about.”

You appear to be confusing knowledge with pessimism.

23rd over: England 126-5 (Brook 47, Curran 3) Sam Curran has barely played a shot since coming to the crease, though on this occasion that’s not a criticism. For the time being his role is to support Brook, no more or less.

He cuts Rashid Khan’s fifth ball for a single, the only run from that over.

22nd over: England 124-5 (Brook 47, Curran 2) I suppose the only vague comfort for England is that they suffered a similarly shocking defeat to Ireland at last year’s World T20, after which they had to win every game. They might able to afford another defeat in this competition but they still have to play Australia, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Netherlands.

I’m talking as if England have lost this game, which is a dangerous assumption when Harry Brook is still batting. He back cuts Azmatullah for four more, and is timing the ball so sweetly that Afghanistan won’t feel comfortable until they get him out of there.


21st over: England 117-5 (Brook 42, Curran 1) Sam Curran is almost cleaned up first ball by a fantastic googly. He was saved by a leading edge.

“Whatever the final outcome, this is a remarkable performance for Afghanistan, just a few hours after news of a third major earthquake to hit the country in about a month sinks in,” writes Sumit Rahman. “Resilience is a word that can get bandied about quite easily in sport, but these guys really do have it in abundance.”

Quite. It’s hard not to be thrilled for them, even if does leave England in the departure lounge.

Livingstone is out! And England are all out of reviews. That was a very poor decision to go upstairs.

WICKET! England 117-5 (Livingstone LBW b Rashid 10)

Rashid Khan strikes! Livingstone pushes around a quicker delivery and is trapped in front. He reviews – indulgently, I think, especially as England have only one left. We’ll soon see.

Rashid Khan of Afghanistan celebrates the wicket of Liam Livingstone.
Rashid Khan of Afghanistan celebrates the wicket of Liam Livingstone. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images


20th over: England 115-4 (Brook 40, Livingstone 9) A change at the seam-bowling end: Azmatullah Omarzai comes on for Naveen-ul-Haq. Brook, who has played some high-class strokes in the last 10 minutes, steers a short ball wide of the fielder at third man for four.

“Actually,” says Siddharth Gupta, “India defeated West Indies in the qualifying stages in 1983 and we were the minnows with us exiting at the bottom in the previous two World Cups. So it has happened before…”

I did wonder about that game, but I concluded it was a stretch to call India minnows, although you make an excellent point about their poor form at previous World Cups.


19th over: England 105-4 (Brook 35, Livingstone 7) A quiet over from Rashid, which is another way of saying I was preoccupied with the below email.

“If memory serves,” begins Max Williams, “weren’t England’s World Cup winners already on a slight downward trajectory in 2019 - with their peak smashing 481 vs Australia a year earlier? (Helluva peak TBF.)

“A team of thirtysomethings isn’t a problem in and of itself - but how many of the surviving players would you take over their 2018 incarnations? And how many of the replacements are upgrades? Malan is a fine player and Brook has boundless talent but you wouldn’t take either over 2018 Roy and Morgan…”

Hmm, I know what you mean but they’ve played such little 50-over cricket since 2019 that it’s hard to know how good these incarnations are, and they did win a T20 World Cup a year ago. That said, before the World Cup it seemed likely that one of the three Dad’s armies (England, New Zealand, Australia) would find it a tournament too far. That dubious honour is still up for grabs!

18th over: England 105-4 (Brook 34, Livingstone 5) It’s starting to sink in that, barring a truly great innings from either Harry Brook or Liam Livingstone, Afghanistan are going to beat England here. The last time the World Cup holders lost to a perceived minnow was … never. Hasn’t happened.

A no-ball from Naveen gives Livingstone a free hit, an invitation he accepts with a clump over extra cover for four. Brook adds two boundaries of his own with a majestic extra cover drive and a brusque pull. That takes him to 34 from 28 balls; maybe this is the night he comes of age as an ODI player.

It’s the end of a strange over – 14 came from it, but the wicket of Buttler made it a triumph for Afghanistan.

Jos Buttler has gone for 9 for 18 balls, bowled by a superb nipbacker from Naveen that evaded his attempt drive. Once again, the length was perfect, full enough to take the edge or hit the stumps.

There was a delay before the delivery because of a sightscreen problem, so it’s tempting to conclude Buttler lost concentration. But he looked uncomfortable against Naveen throughout and that really was a jaffa. What made it even better is that pretty much every delivery before that had moved away from the right-handers.



WICKET! England 91-4 (Buttler b Naveen 9)

Magnificent bowling from Naveen-ul-Haq!

England's Jos Buttler


17th over: England 90-3 (Brook 25, Buttler 9) It’s time for Rashid Khan, who owes England one after Eoin Morgan defiled him for 110 off nine overs at the last World Cup.

Buttler lands the first blow, slapping Rashid’s first ball through extra cover for four. Brook back cuts for two, defends a wrong’un and drives a single down the ground. A decent start for England against Rashid.

16th over: England 82-3 (Brook 22, Buttler 4) Brook is beaten by Naveen, then edges wide of slip for four. We suspected the spinners would be a threat but Fazalhaq and Naveen have been quite superb.

The scary thing for England is that they are riding their luck yet they are still in serious trouble. But there’s nothing fortunate about Brook’s latest boundary, a sweetly timed push down the ground.

“Not sure whether Gary Naylor (10th over) should be thanked for that glimpse of the horrorshow that is the Argentina vs Chile Women’s T20 series...” says Rick Foot. “Spare a thought for 15-year-old Florencia Martinez, who has faced 15 balls, got out twice, is yet to score a run and whose only over as a bowler went for 52 including 17 no balls.”

Dear me, that’s helping nobody. Talking of on-field misery, I’m late to this but Mike Atherton’s interview with Simon Kerrigan in the Times earlier this month is just a great read: profound, poignant and inspiring. Thanks to Gary Naylor for that one as well.

15th over: England 72-3 (Brook 13, Buttler 3) Buttler just manages to repel a grubber from Nabi. Unless the dew does something to this pitch, England are toast. Buttler has an escape later in the over when an inside-edge misses the leg stump by a whisker. That’s drinks.

The required rate is now more than a run a ball, and Rashid Khan still has 10 overs to bowl. Ball by ball, over by over, one of the great World Cup shocks is creeping up on us.

Jos Buttler


14th over: England 69-3 (Brook 12, Buttler 1) Naveen beats Buttler twice in the course of a terrific maiden. Afghanistan’s quicks have bowled such a good length this evening – just full of good to maximise both the swing and any uneven bounce.

“At the end of the summer, I suggested to the wonderful Tim de Lisle that, as a man of influence, he should ensure that Chris Woakes is given a large contract to spend the winter at home relaxing and keeping fit ready to be unleashed on the summer’s tourists,” says Adam Roberts. “Nothing happening in India to change my mind.”

The interesting thing with Woakes is that, unlike in Tests, his ODI record overseas is excellent. I’d be loath to write him off just yet, and at the moment he’s the least of England’s worries. If they lose today, they face a particularly arduous route to the semi-finals.


13th over: England 69-3 (Brook 12, Buttler 1) Jos Buttler walks to the wicket, and he has quite a mess to clean up. With every spinning delivery, his decision to bowl first looks a little more costly. At this stage Afghanistan were 102 for nought.

WICKET! England 66-3 (Malan c Ibrahim b Nabi 32)

Still no Rashid Khan. The grizzled offspinner Mohammad Nabi comes on to replace Mujeeb – and he strikes third ball! Malan reaches for a beautifully flighted delivery and spoons it straight to cover. That was a brilliant piece of bowling, and it has put Afghanistan well on top.

England’s Dawid Malan


12th over: England 66-2 (Malan 31, Brook 11) The first bowling change for Afghanistan, with the right-arm quick Naveen-ul-Haq replacing the excellent Fazalhaq Farooqi. I guess Rashid Khan will come on at Mujeeb’s end.

Naveen’s first two balls go the boundary, though the first could have ended in a wicket. Malan wafted a little lazily and edged past slip at catchable height. The follow-up delivery was too straight and scuttled away for four leg-byes. But the rest of the over was on the money, with just a sharp single from the final delivery. England need 219 from 38 overs, 10 of which will be bowled by Rashid Khan.

11th over: England 57-2 (Malan 26, Brook 11) Mujeeb is into his sixth over. Malan and Brook, fearful of booby traps, settle for five low-risk singles. That’s good batting.

10th over: England 52-2 (Malan 23, Brook 9) Afghanistan sometimes hold Rashid Khan back, but they must be tempted to get him on before the dew starts to take effect. Two quick wickets would make Afghanistan strong favourites.

Fazalhaq continues to Brook, who gets his first boundary with a sweetly timed flick off the hip. That prompts Fazalhaq to go back over the wicket. Brook punches an extra cover drive through the fielder for two more.

The third match of this series is this evening,” says Gary Naylor. “Were I a Chilean player, I might find a tight hamstring.”

9th over: England 46-2 (Malan 23, Brook 3) A possible carrom ball from Mujeeb to Malan spins down the leg side for four wides. Brook then does very well to defend a straight delivery that keeps offensively low. These aren’t good signs at all for England, though maybe the dew will change the character of the pitch.

“Interesting but brilliant?” sniffs James Boyle. “Wash your mouth out. You’ll be cheering for Fiji next.”

You’re darn tootin.

8th over: England 36-2 (Malan 20, Brook 1) Fazalhaq switches round the wicket to the new batter Brook, who gets off the mark with a tight single to midwicket. Everything England do right nowlooks fraught with peril.

A leg-side wide aside, that’s another good over from Fazalhaq, who has bowled far better than figures of 4-0-24-1 would suggest. He set the tone by dismissing Bairstow with his first ball and then working over Malan. His length has been superb.

7th over: England 33-2 (Malan 19, Brook 0) If England lose this game, they will be in serious bother. At most they would only be able to lose one more game, and they are yet to play South Africa, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia.

“On Woakes and Curran,” says Phil Harrison, “I think you might have charitably left out their runs conceded from one of the games there! It’s closer to 300 than 200!”

Oh my word you’re right, it’s 35.2-4-275-4. Ordinarily I would give Woakes another go and drop Curran, but England need every death bowler they can find against South Africa. They might change Willey for Woakes, especially if they think the new ball will swing.

England are in a serious dogfight here. Root – England’s best player of spin, the man most likely to make a matchwinning 120 not out – has been cleaned up by Mujeeb. It was a lovely delivery that skidded through the gate to hit the stumps. Replays suggest it keep slightly low as well, though it wasn’t a grubber. Root played back when maybe he should have been forward; England have their back against the wall.


WICKET! England 33-2 (Root b Mujeeb 11)


Mujeeb ur Rahman of Afghanistan celebrates the wicket of Joe Root of England.
Mujeeb ur Rahman of Afghanistan celebrates the wicket of Joe Root of England. Photograph: Darrian Traynor-ICC/ICC/Getty Images


6th over: England 29-1 (Malan 19, Root 7) Fazalhaq is all over Malan here. He beats him twice more outside off stump, although Malan is still good enough to punish an overpitched delivery with a typical extra-cover drive for four. They might end up winning comfortably, but right here, right now, England are in an unwelcome dogfight.

5th over: England 22-1 (Malan 13, Root 7) Another stroke of luck for Malan, who tries to cut Mujeeb and bottom-edges the ball past the stumps for a single. This is intriguing stuff, and Afghanistan are full of life in the field. They know this is a chance to make history.

“Regardless of what happens today (I think Afghanistan will win), England are just miles off it in this tournament aren’t they?” says Phil Harrison. “I can’t be arsed to do the maths but I wonder what Woakes and Curran’s combined figures for the three games so far are. About 0-100 off nine today, anyway. I wonder if England can even risk Woakes in the next game - I dread to think what the likes of De Kock and Markram might do to him, let alone Rohit, Kohli et al.”

I’d have to check to be sure but I think their combined figures are 35.2-4-175-4. Though England haven’t started well at all, it’s a very long tournament. This time last year they were struggling past Afghanistan and losing to Ireland in the World T20; three weeks later they were champions.


4th over: England 19-1 (Malan 11, Root 6) Now Malan is beaten on the inside by Fazalhaq, who is moving the ball both ways and hitting an excellent length.

Malan is not out! Yep, too high, and Afghanistan lose a review. It was pretty close though, only just bouncing over the bails.


Afghanistan review for LBW against Malan!

Fazalhaq befuddles Malan with a beautiful inswinger that takes a leading edge and flies away for four. Malan makes it successive boundaries by clouting a wide outswinger up and over backward point.

But this is a seriously good new-ball spell. Malan is hit high on the pad by another excellent delivery. It’s given not out on the field but Afghanistan review. I suspect Malan will survive on height.


3rd over: England 9-1 (Malan 2, Root 5) Afghanistan’s only win in 17 previous World Cup games was against Scotland in 2015. Their ODI record against the big six is P19 W0 T1 L18. In short, a victory tonight would be the most famous in their short cricket history.

Malan pushes Mujeeb for a very tight single to mid-off, though he would have been safe even if Rashid’s throw had hit the stumps. Two from the over.

2nd over: England 7-1 (Malan 1, Root 4) Fazalhaq greets Root with an almost identical delivery, but Root is good enough to touch it fine for four. The next ball hits Root high on the pad after swinging back sharply. This is getting interesting.

He’s out! Bairstow walks off chuntering furiously. There were two yellows for umpire’s call – where it pitched and where it would have hit the stumps – so the on-field decision was vital.

Now. Then.

Bairstow played around a classic inswinger and was hit on the pad. I thought it was maybe missing leg – and Bairstow has reviewed – but it was given out on the field. He might get away with this.


WICKET! England 3-1 (Bairstow LBW b Fazalhaq 2)

Yep, it will be Fazalhaq Farooqi to share the new ball. England will target the pace bowlers, though they’ll have to be wary of Fazalhaq’s swing.

Very wary: Bairstow has gone first ball!

Afghanistan's Fazalhaq Farooqi celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of England's Jonny Bairstow.
Afghanistan's Fazalhaq Farooqi celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of England's Jonny Bairstow. Photograph: Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images


1st over: England 3-0 (Bairstow 2, Malan 1) Mujeeb tends to take the second over of the innings, so this is a slight change of approach from Afghanistan. I wonder what the thinking is.

It’s a quiet and very quick first over, in which England pick up three low-risk singles.

No he won’t – Afghanistan are opening with the offspinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman.

It’s time for business. The pacy left-armer Fazalhaq Farooqi will bowl the first ball to Jonny Bairstow.

Thanks Daniel, hello everyone. Well, we asked for a close game and/or a shock at this World Cup, and maybe we should have keep our mouths shut. This could be a slippery chase for England, especially as they will bat in the knowledge that defeat is unthinkable.

A lot depends on the Delhi dew. In theory the pitch should quicken up after 15-20 overs of the England innings; if that happens, they will probably win comfortably. But nothing comes with a guarantee. If the pitch plays as it did in the first innings, when England’s slow bowlers had combined figures of five for 94 from 24 overs, Afghanistan’s spinners will be a serious handful.


Righto, my watch is over. Here’s Rob Smyth to coax you through the chase.

Livingstone, meanwhile, says it looks a decent pitch and he’s pleased with how the ball came out of the hand today. Being a sixth bowler, you don’t always get loads of action, he explains – before today, he’d never bowled all 10 for England – and batting is more natural to him. But his leggies are in decent nick, he’s working on his offies whenever he can, and prides himself on being able to contribute to the team in various ways.

Afghanistan set England 285 to win!

It’s a target, but given the way Afghanistan started, they’ll be disappointed it’s not bigger; England, meanwhile, will be happy enough but a little concerned about Woakes and Curran.

Ikram Alikhil celebrates after scoring a half-century.
Ikram Alikhil celebrates after scoring a half-century. Photograph: Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images


WICKET! Naveen-ul-Haq run out (Buttler) 5 (Afghanistan 284 all out)

Naveen tries a wild pull, misses, the batters try stealing a single, and Buttler underarms into the stumps.

Key event

50th over: Afghanistan 284-9 (Naveen 5, Fazal 2 Farooki forces to mid on and they run one, then Naveen tries a ramp but Topley’s too wide; a single follows.

49th over: Afghanistan 282-9 (Naveen 4, Fazal 1) Both Ikram and Mujeeb batted pretty well, but they were left too much to do after the middle over melted away, and now this final pair are looking gor anything they can get. Wood, though, is a nasty proposition ands he attacks the stumps when Farooki arrives in the middle, a decent block yielding a single. Three dots follow, but them Naveen, offered width, makes room and flings hands, sending four racing away somewhere on the off side. What can the last pair make of the final over?

WICKET! Mujeeb Ur Rahman c Root b Wood 28 (Afghanistan 277-9)

Mujeeb backs away, sends a carve high in the air, and Root, freeing arms and calling for the catch, holds his fourth snaffle of the innings.

England's Joe Root takes the catch.
England's Joe Root takes the catch. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters


WICKET! Ikram Alikhil c Curran b Topley 58 (Afghanistan 277-8)

Slower one from Toley and Ikram thrashes at it but, on the long on fence, Curran pouches nonchalantly without having to move his feet.

Afghanistan's Ikram Alikhil walks after losing his wicket, caught by England's Sam Curran off the bowling of Reece Topley,
Afghanistan's Ikram Alikhil walks after losing his wicket, caught by England's Sam Curran off the bowling of Reece Topley, Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters


48th over: Afghanistan 277-7 (Alikhil 58, Mujeeb 28) Topley continues and after Mujeeb takes one, Ikram gets down on one knee and smites a slower one over midwicket for six! That stayed hit! He misses out next ball though, a wide yorker yielding just one, and when he backs away the bowler follows him; he forces one more off the pads. A beamer no-ball/single follows, so Mujeeb has a go at a free hit … and flicks off the tootsies to midwicket, where Woakes’ excellent tumbling stop saves a boundary as they run three.

47th over: Afghanistan 263-7 (Alikhil 50, Mujeeb 23) Usually, Woakes would bowl now, but Buttler goes for Wood – perhaps because of his extra pace, but also, I think, because he’s bowling better and England are still repairing their net run rate after the New Zealand tousing. Ikram takes a single to midwicket, then Mujeeb swings hard, edging high over the keeper for four before moving down the other end with one edged to fine leg. So Wood tries a boompah and it’s far too hot for Ikram, who gloves two wide of Buttler’s dive to fine leg. That’s his fifty, and he’s batted well; the partnership is 30 off 18.

Let’s not forget that ‘putting a jumper on’ is not a solution for having cold hands,” chides Andy Flintoff, “and neither is ‘putting gloves on’, particularly if you’re doing something that involves dexterity.”

Here’s Denis Law proving to the contrary and as for feet, some kind of sock might be in order?

denis law with sleeves over hands

46th over: Afghanistan 255-7 (Alikhil 47, Mujeeb 18) Ikram jams Curran away for one, then Mujeeb absolutely cleanses him from outside off to the fence at midwicket! It sat up pleading for treatment got it, and then the next delivery, a no ball, slips out of the bowler’s hand so Mujeeb goes again, smashing a failed yorker through point for four … then turns away from the free hit, clobbering six over midwicket nevertheless! That’s 15 from three balls, a two follows, and the over yields a mere 18! Four more biggies for Afghanistan, and who knows?

“As I keep reminding Mrs McMahon, Daniel,” says Simon McMahon, “growing up in a house where the heating went on for one week in January didn’t do me any harm. Now I, like my father before me, am doing my bit for the planet. Though I hope not to die alone in a freezing cold house like he did.”

No accounting for choice.

45th over: Afghanistan 237-7 (Alikhil 46, Mujeeb 2) Four singles complete (yet another) telling spell from Rashid, who finishes with 3-42 from his 10 overs. You simply cannot beat a reliable, wicket-taking spinner – in any form of the game.

WICKET! Rashid Khan c Root b Rashid23 (Afghanistan 233-7)

What a grab this is! Rashid clears the front pad and hoiks across the line as Root chases around the fence towards wide long-on, eyes focused on the ball, before flying into a terrific diving catch. That’s so hard to pull off, and it was the effort put into the first two yards that made it possible.

England's Joe Root takes a catch to dismiss Afghanistan's Rashid Khan.
England's Joe Root takes a catch to dismiss Afghanistan's Rashid Khan. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters


44th over: Afghanistan 233-6 (Alikhil 44, Rashid 23) Curran’s first two overs went for 26, and he won’t have enjoyed being rusticated to the rope until now. He returns well though, ceding just two singles, and this Afghanistan innings is petering out in disappointing fashion.

“I don’t get all the fuss about the home heating being on or not at this time of year,” writes John Starbuck. “First, it depends where you are, second, you can do away with the bother of deciding by automatically having the heating come on when the temperature drops below 20C and off again when it rises. Granted, I do put on another garment if the sun is shining on the front of the house and I’m in the back, but it’s no big deal. Yes, women do tend to feel the cold more than men but it varies a lot, so no rule works for everyone.”

I think it’s because keeping bills down is sort of a game but, since things went wild, also a necessity, and those meters that tell you how much energy they use and at what cost, are devastating for those unable to focus and keen to turn everything into some kind of contest.

43rd over: Afghanistan 231-6 (Alikhil 43, Rashid 22) Afghanistan haven’t been able to convert their start, but them getting it tells us – if we didn’t already know, which we did – that they’re developing as a side. What they need now is time – more games against teams better than them – and money – redistributed from richer nations to keep going. In the meantime, though, they take a two and two singles from Rashid’s penultimate over; surely, with Curran returning, they’ll now look to chuck hands?

42nd over: Afghanistan 227-6 (Alikhil 42, Rashid 19) Ikram has cemented his spot in the side and offered a little width he opens the face, guiding four through third man. That’s a really nice shot because Topley is running in, but he can’t manage anything from the next four balls, redeeming things slightly by tucking the final ball of the over to two to midwicket, sprinted hard – and just as well, because Bairstow’s shy is a good one.


39th over: Afghanistan 221-6 (Alikhil 36, Rashid 19) England’s Rashid returns, and his importance to this side – to this era – really cannot be overstated. His introduction to the attack altered the flow of this match, his bravery in looking to spin the ball and take wickets also reflected in his reliable economy. With Afghanistan needing boundaries, he cedes five singles, and though the partnership is now 31, scoring has been far too slow given the circumstances.

Adil Rashid


40th over: Afghanistan 216-6 (Alikhil 33, Rashid 17) Good news for England: Topley returns to the attack. His dad Don, Graham Gooch’s old Essex mate, was in the crowd, and he’ll have felt that pang when his boy pulled up – he did not look at all happy, and I wonder if instructions not to dive, ever, had been disbursed. Anyroad, three singles start the over, then Ikram glances fine for four to fine leg; a wide, a single and a dot follow.

39th over: Afghanistan 207-6 (Alikhil 27, Rashid 15) Eeesh, Wood hurtles in at the speed of light and after Rashid takes a single, Ikram ducks into what the man himself would call a “lift-ah” and wears a right sair yin on the shoulder. He takes a breather, then two further singles follow,” and Afghanistan will have to go some in the final 10 overs to put England under pressure.

“It was a petty tussle between the controllers of the Delhi & District Cricket Association on one side & the Delhi State & Central Govt on the other side,” returns Yogi on the Gautam Gambhier stand. “Two different political parties. The old Kotla ground was to be renovated for WC2011 & the Govts withdrew permission at the last moment. As a result the playing area had to be moved 50m to the North West which squeezed the area available for the GG as it is back to back with the old Delhi Football stadium. We also have the old dilapidated original pavilion which was declared a Heritage building & can’t be demolished.”

Ikram Alikhil in action.
Ikram Alikhil in action. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters


38th over: Afghanistan 204-6 (Alikhil 26, Rashid 13) Livingstone begins his final over and Ikram takes one to mid off, then Rashid cuts and somehow avoids gully – though in fairness, he got a decent amount of bat on ball. A single follows, so the Lanky man ends with figures of 1-33 off his 10. On the PA, they play Rema’s Calm Dow so again, I ask: what is the verse and what is the chorus of that song? And when was the last time a single when around the world like that? Somebody That I Used To Know?

37th over: Afghanistan 198-6 (Alikhil 25, Rashid 8) Rashid can bat a bit and the crowd chant his name as Wood springs in … then he presents the full face, caressing a gorgeous drive through extra for four! Wood’s bowling fast now, but Rashid isn’t arsed, going at one and slicing between fielders for four! This is thrilling stuff, Wood is such an energetic presence – Steve Harmison, say, used to almost amble in and then generate delivery-stride pace from nowhere, whereas Wood is an elastic force; you can see every single click of the 69,034mph at which he bowls.

“You make a very good point about the asymmetry of the heating conundrum,” returns Brian Withington. “However, my chilly wife is curiously unpersuaded about the merits of slipping a hoodie on to take a shower, even at the bidding of the Guardian’s finest…”

I’m not advocating denying hot water, just hot pipes! You’re a braver man than me, that’s for sure.


WICKET! Nabi c Root b Wood 9 (Afghanistan 190-6)

Wood returns, unleashes a psychopath that gets big on Nabi, and all he can do is glance an easy one to Root at short backward point/deep gully, depending on your bent.

Mark Wood of England celebrates the wicket of Mohammad Nabi.
Mark Wood of England celebrates the wicket of Mohammad Nabi. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images


36th over: Afghanistan 190-5 (Alikhil 25, Nabi 9) Livingstone tucks Ikram up, a soupçon of spin enough to beat the bat … but Buttler fumbles his take and the batter gets back when he ought to have been history! Four singles follow, and though he’d have fancied another wicket, this is a telling spell from Livingstone.


35th over: Afghanistan 186-5 (Alikhil 23, Nabi 7) Wood returns for Root and Ikram nurdles his loosener for one; Nabi then misses with a cut before bumping a single to third man before Ikram does similarly. To make a match of this, Afghanistan need to get a wriggle on, and soon.

34th over: Afghanistan 183-5 (Alikhil 21, Nabi 6) On which topic, one of my friends – before he got married – used to enjoy sending round his winter heating bill, having sat there in fleece and beanie for three months, radiators off. Quite how he made his grilled cheese, I’m not sure, but anyway, five singles from this latest Livingstone over and he’s now 1-23 off eight.

33rd over: Afghanistan 178-5 (Alikhil 18, Nabi 4) Afghanistan have now lost five wickets for 50, and that does, I guess, reflect a difference between the best sides and the others: the ability and depth to press home an advantage. But, as I type that, Nabi – having played away four dots – decides he’s seen enough, clattering Root to the fence at deep square.

“Just to echo Simon McMahon,” says Brian Withington, “the boost option on my iPhone Tado central heating app (other phones and apps are available) has already been pressed into service today in response to plaintive cries for succour from ‘she who must be warmed up’. I wonder if Chris Woakes has a similar button?”

It’s a strange thing this, because hoodies are available, whereas it’s not as though the warmer partner can simply shed a layer of skin.

WICKET! Hashmatullah Shahidi b Root 14 (Afghanistan 174-5)

Root is such a useful weapon, and when he hits a length, Hashmatullah can’t decide whether to forward or backwards, the ball coming on, cramping him, and removing his bails! He’s now got to go and face Gurbaz!


32nd over: Afghanistan 174-4 (Hashmatullah 14, Alikhil 18) Singles to mid on and deep square, then Ikram sweeps fineand they run two. In comms, they wonder if England will drop Woakes, which seems unlikely given his record and reliability – with bat and in the field too – but another bum display next weekend and there’ll be questions.

31st over: Afghanistan 170-4 (Hashmatullah 14, Alikhil 14) Ikram bunts Root to mid on for one, then Hashmatullah guides another to cover point. A further single follows, and I imagine these two are taking runs where they find them, so that they’re there for a thrash closer to the end.

30th over: Afghanistan 167-4 (Hashmatullah 12, Alikhil 13) Beauty from Livingstone, grip, turn and bounce too good for Ikram’s outside edge. More dots follow, a shove to cover for one the only run off the over, and Livingstone is soo good at imperceptibly disappearing balls; he’s 1-14 off six and I can barely remember anything that’s happened while he’s been bowling.

29th over: Afghanistan 166-4 (Hashmatullah 12, Alikhil 12) Ikram doesn’t wait to be asked! When Root drags one down, he dismisses it from his countenance with requisite disgust, humping six over midwicket, and a single to deep square follows. I wonder if Buttler will send Rashid back on soon to try and break this partnership.

Ikram Alikhil hits a six.
Ikram Alikhil hits a six. Photograph: Manish Swarup/AP


28th over: Afghanistan 157-4 (Hashmatullah 11, Alikhil 4) 114-0 to 152-4 represents a missed opportunity for Afghanistan because, though England’s spinners have done well, Gurbaz was in and flying when his captain needlessly called him through for a single that wasn’t there. This latest Livingstone over yields two that were, and his variety is proving hard to pick.


27th over: Afghanistan 157-4 (Hashmatullah 11, Alikhil 4) Root into the attack instead of Woakes and that looks a smart move – it’s the spinners causing issues. Afghanistan won’t mind that per se, as theirs will need to fire if they’re to win here, but they’ll probably need more runs than they now look like getting … but there are four more, Ikram waiting for Root and slamming to the point fence. He’s off the mark.


26th over: Afghanistan 152-4 (Hashmatullah 8, Alikhil 0) Jos Buttler won’t like how his side started this match – remember the five they conceded from the first ball – but they’ve been impressive since.

WICKET! Azmatullah c Woakes b Livingstone 19 (Afghanistan 152-4)

This is a decent spell from Livingstone who tosses up, inciting Azmatullah to back away and go hard, but he’s stretching and Woakes takes easily at long off.

England’s Liam Livingstone celebrates the wicket of Afghanistan’s Azmatullah Omarzai.
England’s Liam Livingstone celebrates the wicket of Afghanistan’s Azmatullah Omarzai. Photograph: Pankaj Nangia/Shutterstock


25th over: Afghanistan 149-3 (Hashmatullah 8, Azmatullah 18) Sensible captaincy from Buttler, who restores Woakes to the attack when the going’s good … and Azmatullah swings his second ball for six over long on! Goodness me, he’s had better days, and when he goes full on about sixth, a decent bit of timing sends four more just wide of Brook’s dive on the cover-point fence! Afghanistan needed that!

24th over: Afghanistan 139-3 (Hashmatullah 8, Azmatullah 8) The batters take a single each from the three remaining balls of the over, and that 300+ of which Hashmatullah spoke at the toss looks a fairly distant proposition all off a sudden.

Other heating tricks: turning off individual radiators; using a heated towel rail to warm a room I think my wife might use.


Good call from the umpire: the ball was bouncing over the top. Still, though, it was a goodun, and England have done well to take control of this match.

Liam Livingstone of England unsuccessfully appeals for the LBW of Hashmatullah Shahidi.
Liam Livingstone of England unsuccessfully appeals for the LBW of Hashmatullah Shahidi. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images


24th over: Afghanistan 137-3 (Hashmatullah 7, Azmatullah 7) I was sort of dropping him earlier, but Livingstone is so useful to this England side and when Hashmatullah misses looking to turn away an off-spinner, there’s an appeal. Not out says the umpire and Butler reviews; I think it’s missing leg…

23rd over: Afghanistan 135-3 (Hashmatullah 6, Azmatullah 6) This track is a bit flat but it’s skiddy too, which is one reason Woakes took tap – balls were either sitting up or skidding on. Rashid, though, is finding that helpful and when – after a single and a wide – Azmatullah takes a tight one, he narrowly avoids causing a run out, Livingstone’s throw missing the stumps by a fraction. The further singles follow, and six off the over makes this Afghanistan’s best in a while.

22nd over: Afghanistan 130-3 (Hashmatullah 3, Azmatullah 4) Yup, clever move getting the other spinner on with two batters who like to take things slowly looking to get going. Llivingstone cedes two singles, and all that work the openers did is in now in jeopardy.

21st over: Afghanistan 127-3 (Hashmatullah 2, Azmatullah 3) England are on top now, Rashid wheeling through another miserly over. These two batted nicely against India, but to set a sporting target, they’ve not got long to play themselves in.

“Enough of the cricket,” emails Simon McMahon. “Is the heating on? The one hour ‘boost’ setting on the heating control panel has saved my marriage on more than one occasion. Much like cricket and comedy, it’s all about the timing.”

Ha, the heating remains dormant and I remain attached. The problem tends to come when arrival is unannounced.

A scoreboard operator looks on during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup India 2023 between England and Afghanistan at Arun Jaitley Stadium.
A scoreboard operator looks on during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup India 2023 between England and Afghanistan at Arun Jaitley Stadium. Photograph: Darrian Traynor-ICC/ICC/Getty Images


20th over: Afghanistan 125-3 (Hashmatullah 1, Azmatullah 2) Sensing weakness, England introduce Livingstone, presumably to rush through a few cheap overs. In co-comms, Shane Watson muses that Gurbaz could easily have called no and not run, as we see footage of him shouting and whacking his bat on things. OK, fair enough, you’re right; I said you have to feel for him, but that tantrum is very funny. Two singles off the over.


19th over: Afghanistan 123-3 (Hashmatullah 0, Azmatullah 1) You’ve got to feel for Gurbaz, who looked set for a maiden World Cup ton; Hashamatullah needs to score here, because if he doesn’t, he’s going to be hearing some thoughts when he returns to the dressing room.


WICKET! Gurbaz run out (sub Willey/Buttler) 80 (Afghanistan 122-3)

Oh mates! Ohhhh maaaaaates! Hashmatullah half-bats one into the on side, calls a single that doesn’t exist and, as Willy hurls in, a full-length dive isn’t enough to get a raging Gurbaz even close to in. After a brilliant start, Afghanistan are in danger of throwing it away.

Afghanistan’s Rahmanullah Gurbaz is run out by England’s David Willey.
Afghanistan’s Rahmanullah Gurbaz is run out by England’s David Willey. Photograph: Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters


WICKET! Rahmat st Buttler b Rashid 3 (Afghanistan 122-2)

Fine bowling from Rashid, who finds just enough dip and spin to deceive the batter, ball moving away from bat, and foot leaving crease, just.

Afghanistan's Rahmat Shah.
Afghanistan's Rahmat Shah. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters


19th over: Afghanistan 122-1 (Gurbaz 80, Rahmat 3) Topley is back by the England bench, so I think he might be good to return. That’s excellent if so, but back in the middle Rahmat looks to push away on the off side, misses, Buttler swipes off the bails, and he’s sure eesgoteem….

18th over: Afghanistan 122-1 (Gurbaz 80, Rahmat 3) He does the sensible thing and gets down the other end quicksmart, then Gurbaz, again opens the face to run a brace down to third man. He’s been pretty much faultless on the off side and, as I type, forces two more away on the on. Two singles follow, and that’s seven off what felt lilk a quiet over.

As per my earlier update, Ben Stokes about to tell you he’s just ordered the greatest ethno-noise white label.

ben stokes in sungalsses

17th over: Afghanistan 115-1 (Gurbaz 74, Rahmat 1) When England needed something, it was their most experienced bowler who found it, and how on earth will they cope when he tiuns it in – perhaps after this tournament. Rahmat pushes him down the ground for one to get off the mark, but I wonder if Wood will go hard at him now.

WICKET! Ibrahim c Root b Rashid 28 (Afghanistan 114-1)

Finally England are in the match! Ibrahim clears his front leg thinking he can flick over Root at short midwicket, but a leaping catch removes him. What a start that opening partnership has given this match, though.

Adil Rashid of England celebrates the wicket of Ibrahim Zadran.
Adil Rashid of England celebrates the wicket of Ibrahim Zadran. Photograph: Darrian Traynor-ICC/ICC/Getty Images


16th over: Afghanistan 111-0 (Gurbaz 74, Ibrahim 26) Ibrahim signals for a new bat and gets one, but it’s Gurbaz facing Wood now and he turns it around the corner so Topley, on the fence, pursues, half-dives … can’t prevent the four … and looks to have hurt his knee. Oh man, that is not good to see, and I really hope he’s OK – he’s had so many injuries and worked so hard to get back. He’s limping around the fence and my sense is that he’s done for today but not too badly hurt; Gus Atkinson, though, will be scenting the distant whiff of opportunity. Anyroad, back in the now, Gurbaz eases a single down to third, and aside from the his brutally brilliant batting, the most notable aspect of this match so far has been England’s inability even to threaten a breakthrough.

15th over: Afghanistan 106-0 (Gurbaz 69, Ibrahim 26) Rashid continues and England will hope he can at least put a brake on the scoring; he can, sending down a maiden – the first of the innings. The rate is 7.06.

14th over: Afghanistan 106-0 (Gurbaz 69, Ibrahim 26) Wood continues and Gurbaz yanks him to square leg for one, leaving Ibrahim to get out the way of a menacing bouncer. Three further singles follow, and that was a better over for England, just four from it.

“Are we witnessing Gurbazball?” wonders Mr Mustard on Twitter, and while I try and think of a puntastic response, the players take drinks. England need a stiff one.

13th over: Afghanistan 102-0 (Gurbaz 67, Ibrahim 24) Gurbaz misses with a sweep, there’s an appeal, and I realise it’s the first of the innings – which is to say England have bowled better. And, as I type following two singles, Gurbaz flows six more over midwicket, raising his team’s hundred in the process! This could be maturing into one of the great knocks!

“Just wondering what the go is with both teams being dressed in near-identical blue and white kits?” emails Dan Lawler. “I’m admittedly touchy on this subject as an oft-confused colourblind person. And cricket’s less troublesome than other sports – even I rarely confuse batters and fielders. But still, seems pretty avoidable, right?”

I guess they don’t really bother with change strips in cricket – in Tests everyone wears white – but I can see why this looks a little disconcerting.

Rahmanullah Gurbaz.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz. Photograph: Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters


12th over: Afghanistan 93-0 (Gurbaz 59, Ibrahim 23) Yup, here’s Wood, the quickest bowler in the competition … and whose third ball is absolutely … tickled? over wide third for six! He waited for that because it was wide and he knew it’d sit up, but it takes serious precision to fondle its undercarriage like that. A single follows, and this is some knock. Go on lad!

11th over: Afghanistan 86-0 (Gurbaz 53, Ibrahim 23) Powerplay over, Afghanistan having dominated it, we move into the second phase of the match with Adil Rashid on to bowl. He’s a genuine great of English cricket – we should enjoy him while we still can, though I still think he could’ve done more in Tests – but have a look! Gurbaz sweeps his second ball for four, and he’s batting beautifully! A World Cup 50 at 21-years-old, and there’s a big score out there for him is he just keeps doing what he’s doing: victimising anything not on the button.

10th over: Afghanistan 75-0 (Gurbaz 46, Ibrahim 22) The track is flatter than Ian Brown’s voice, but if given something at which to bowl, perhaps Afghanistan’s spinners will be harder to get away. England could really use a wicket or at least a quieter over, and Topley cedes a single, a leg bye and a two; they’ll take that, but I daresay Mark Wood will soon have ball in hand.

9th over: Afghanistan 75-0 (Gurbaz 46, Ibrahim 19) Ibrahim knocks one to midwicket, then the umpires review a suspected no ball and Curran had indeed overstepped; he escapes the free hit with a single. Or does he! OR DOES HE! Gurbaz creeeeams four through the covers, then one swings unexpectedly and he turns it away to the fine-leg fence … and then, when Curran drags back his length, he monsters him into the stands at midwicket! That’s 14 off the last three balls! Two more to cover follow, 20 off the over, and Afghanistan are absolutely loving this. Aren’t we all!

“Regarding the oddly shaped Gautam Gambhir stand,” tweets Yogi, “there’s a very interesting story of how it ended up with the shape that it has got.”

Don’t leave us hanging, but for what it’s worth, I really like it – sports grounds need to be distinctive, with character, and that gives it plenty.

A General view inside the stadium during the match.
A General view inside the stadium during the match. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters


8th over: Afghanistan 51-0 (Gurbaz 29, Ibrahim 17) One more for Topley and Gurbaz gets into a beautiful position as the first delivery slides across him, waiting for it to almost go past before easing to the point fence. “That cut was so late it was almost posthumous,” as John Arlott once said. What Afghanistan have done well is find early-over boundaries, putting England under pressure, but Topley responds well here, sending five dots. Ah, and there’s Ben Stokes, beard looking thick and comb-back looking thicker, fashion shades in situ too. A hi-vis vest tops the look.

7th over: Afghanistan 51-0 (Gurbaz 25, Ibrahim 17) It’s coming on nicely out there! Ibrahim steps forward, turning Curran’s loosener into a half volley and stroking four through cover! Two singles follow while, in co-comms, Shaun Pollock asks for a short one. It’s not forthcoming, but this is boiling nicely.

Afghanistan's Ibrahim Zadran reacts after playing a shot.
Afghanistan's Ibrahim Zadran reacts after playing a shot. Photograph: Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images


6th over: Afghanistan 45-0 (Gurbaz 24, Ibrahim 12) Oh yes! Topley offers Ibrahim a little width and he goes with soft hands, guiding four through deep point. Afghanistan are going nicely here and a wide and single follow … then when one arrives short, wide and pleading to be hit, Gurbaz hurls hands and smokes past Root’s dive at point! Another 10 off that over so, as we all would if we needed something to happen, Buttler turns to Sam Curran.

5th over: Afghanistan 35-0 (Gurbaz 20, Ibrahim 7) Oh Chris. Oh mate. Woakes runs in, Gurbaz moonwalks away, Woakes tries a cutter … and Gurbaz unloads the suitcase at one that races to the cover fence for four! And when the next ball also arrives overpitched, a deft carve sends it through point for four more! You don’t say this often, but Chris Woakes is taking a pasting! Two singles, 10 off the over, and 31 off three!

Afghanistan's Ibrahim Zardan runs between the wickets as England's Chris Woakes watches on.
Afghanistan's Ibrahim Zardan runs between the wickets as England's Chris Woakes watches on. Photograph: Manish Swarup/AP


4th over: Afghanistan 25-0 (Gurbaz 11, Ibrahim 6) Even when not bang at it, Topley’s tricky to get away, and the batters can only manage three shoved singles, a leg-side wide making it four from the over. Against more dangerous opponents, I daresay Buttler would be thinking about replacing Woakes, but my sense is he wants overs in his legs and that he bowls his way into rhythm.

“A pretty hot day today but I’m in trousers and a jumper,” writes Simon Burnton, our man in Delhi, “because the press box air conditioning is wildly excessive. I’m looking over to the bewilderingly wonky Gautam Gambhir Stand – I fear I might spend quite a lot of the game wondering what on earth the architects were taking.”

Perhaps it’s reflective of his batting in England (average 12.70, HS 38)! Oh it’s the way we tell them!

3rd over: Afghanistan 21-0 (Gurbaz 9, Ibrahim 5) Gurbaz jinks down and slices Woakes over cover … and safe. Then, next ball when woakes drops a little shorter, he waits, bends knees … and marmalises six over midwicket! He absolutely tumped that! Ach, and when Buttler again fails to collect a wide, the total grows by two, then Ibrahim cuts to point where Bairstow dives but misses the ball! Four more and 14 off the over; Woakes is under a bit of pressure here, 0-21 off two.

Gurbaz jinks down and slices.
Gurbaz jinks down and slices. Photograph: Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images


2nd over: Afghanistan 7-0 (Gurbaz 1, Ibrahim 1) Topley has a proper fast bowler’s barnet, doesn’t he? I’d like it a little bit shorter at the sides and longer at the back, so we get that flowing effect, but it’s still good and so is the maiden he sends down to begin with.

“Heating’s been on for a week here in Norway,” says Brendan Large, “but I dare say it’s little chillier. Anyway what has David Willey done wrong to not get a go ... is it just that he’s another lefty?”

My guess is he’s viewed as a steady option who won’t let them down, when the alternatives are a little more able to force issues. At some point I need to experience proper cold – I’d love a bit of Rosenborg away following my football team – though I daresay that as soon s I was in it, I’d want to be out of it.

England's Reece Topley.
England's Reece Topley. Photograph: Manish Swarup/AP


1st over: Afghanistan 7-0 (Gurbaz 1, Ibrahim 1) Dearie me, Woakes runs in, aborts, chucks a wide down the leg side … and then Buttler gets there but misses his catch! Five off the first ball, then a slash for one from the third and a squirt to deep backward point from the fifth. Afghanistan will take that.

Afghanistan's Ibrahim Zardan and Rahmanullah Gurbaz.
Afghanistan's Ibrahim Zardan and Rahmanullah Gurbaz. Photograph: Manish Swarup/AP


Woakes, who’ll be looking for an improvement from himself, has the new globule.


It looks hotter in Delhi than in London. No need for the heating on there.

Anthem time…

England and Afghanistan players line up during the national anthems before the match.
England and Afghanistan players line up during the national anthems before the match. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters


Here come the teams…

What do we think about Reece Topley? Even on the slower tracks, I’d guess his pace will be more useful than Moeen’s spin, but looking at the England XI, is there a way we can get Stokes in without binning Brook? Liam Livingstone would be the man at risk, but it’d mean Woakes, Curran, Rashid, Wood and Topley bowling through, and if any went or got injured, you’d have a problem.

“Jonathan Trott, Afghanistan coach, great mate of mine,” oozes Nick Knight over live footage from the ground, resplendent in zip-up tank-top affair. Sadly there is no chyron to that effect.

Email! “Surely on the heating front,” says Tony Cunningham, “by the time your wife gets back from the pool it’ll be several degrees warmer anyway (and warmer than the pool) so you can pretend the heating has been on and she’ll never know ... unless she reads what you write for The Guardian.”

This had occurred to me – and she’ll also be coming out of a car so hot it should be illegal. There is much more chance this ruse succeeds than there is she reads these words.

“He wants to prove to people how good he is and he certainly is that good,” says Zak Crawley of Dawid Malan – a statement that is philosophically unimpeachable.

Athers notes England have done well to meet Afghanistan in Delhi and Bangladesh in Dharamsala, where it doesn’t really turn. He also reckons that, had this been a match against one of the better sides, Ben Stokes would’ve played and will be good to go against South Africa on Saturday.


Afghanistan: Gurbaz, Zadran I, Shah, Shahidi (c), Nabi, Alikhil (wk), Omarzai, Rashid Khan, Ur Rahman, Ul-Haq, Farooqi.

England: Bairstow, Malan, Root, Buttler (c, wk), Brook, Livingstone, Woakes, Curran, Rashid, Wood, Topley.

Hashmatulla would’ve fielded too but now the aim is to score as many as possible, above 300 if possible – put England under pressure – then hope there’s turn for his quality spinners. Njibullah drops out, with Ikram Alikhil coming in and keeping; Zadran I is now just an oepener.

England win the toss and will field!

“No particular reason, it looks a really good wicket and we’d like to chase,” says Buttler, adding that his team are unchanged. India have played well chasing in Delhi, SA scored big too, and he wants to see England’s improvement continue.

Jos Buttler of England flips the coin as Hashmatullah Shahidi of Afghanistan looks on.
Jos Buttler of England flips the coin as Hashmatullah Shahidi of Afghanistan looks on. Photograph: Darrian Traynor-ICC/ICC/Getty Images


There’s very little I love more than waking up to sport, working-day sport also being up there.

My wife’s taken our nipper swimming and advised me that, while they’re gone, the heating needs putting on. Problem being, I’m not sure I’ve got that in me so help me out: 15 October is too early for such behaviour, right?


Generally speaking, the side that plays best in the early stages is rarely the side dancing about at the final’s final whistle – a maxim applicable across all World Cups and in all sports. Too soon! Too soon! I promise, I planned to begin like that before that.

England, though, won’t have been too agitated after losing their opening game. The holders know they know how to win and after thrashing Bangladesh they’re trucking, having once again balanced the side by dropping Moeen Ali. Perhaps.

It may be that – on the subcontinent – England end up wanting another spin option but – as they say on the subcontinent – “pace is pace”, and Reece Topley has it. Alongside which, if Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Harry Brook, Liam Livingstone, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid and Mark Wood can’t get you enough runs – have there ever been deeper batting line-ups than that? – then maybe you have to accept it’s just not your day. Or restore Ben Stokes to the side, definitely one of the two.

We jest. Because though one-day cricket isn’t as capricious as T20, nor as easily commandeered by one player with one performance, when so many sides have so much firepower, it’s impossible to know which of them will win a one-off match. So, though it may seem unlikely Afghanistan have enough to trouble England, you never know – and even if they don’t, they’ve more than enough to make it interesting.

Play: 2pm local, 9.30am BST

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