T20 World Cup: Catching, Curran save the day for England against Afghanistan

England batters looked scratchy in a modest chase of 113 against Afghanistan yet their brilliant catching and fine bowling led by medium Sam Curran were takeaways for Jos Buttler’s team.

Curran ran through the lower order to extinguish hopes of Afghanistan using the long handle in the death overs. England’s acrobatic fielding was a standout feature of their time out in the field during this Group 1 Super 12 game.

It looked like England fielders were competing with each other to win the catch of the tournament prize. Livingstone took a blinder after making tremendous ground, then produced a full-length dive to dismiss Hazratullah Zazai.

Moeen Ali ran backwards at extra cover and held his nerve under the lights to get rid of Ibrahim Zadran. Adil Rashid ran back towards long-on and pouched the ball in his fingertips after leaning forward to take the catch of Najibullah Zadran.

Jos Buttler might have pulled off the best catch of the night with a one-handed dive down the leg-side. He leapt to his left to gather at full stretch after Nabi tickled Wood’s short ball behind.

On the other hand, Afghanistan dropped two catches with only 112 on the board. Alex Hales was the batter on both occasions. However, Hales soon ran out of luck, with Fazalhaq Farooqi taking an excellent running catch.

Curran five for

Mark Wood (2/23) bowled the fastest four-over spell in the T20 World Cup. Every ball bowled by Mark Wood was above 140 kph. His average speed of 149 kph, which is also a new record. Wood struck with the first ball, which nipped away at 146kph to Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who edged behind to Jos Buttler. He welcomed Ibrahim Zadran with a 154 kph thunderbolt, the quickest of the match. Curran finished with career-best figures of 5/10, the best for England’s men in T20 internationals. In the span of 12 balls, Afghanistan lost five wickets for just three runs, with Curran being their destroyer-in-chief. His previous best was 3/25 against Australia in Canberra in the lead up to this tournament.

Curran came to bowl in the eighth over and was welcomed with a boundary by Usman Ghani. He returned to claim the wicket of Ibrahim Zadran in the 12th over and then came back at the death to pick up four wickets and complete his five-for.

Curran was on a hat-trick after removing Azmatullah Omarzai and Rashid Khan off the last two balls of the 18th over. But he did manage to claim three in four when Ghani slapped one straight to Liam Livingstone at the deep point in the 20th over. He then rounded up the Afghanistan collapse by dismissing Fazalhaq Farooqi, who ended up slicing one to David Malan at a backward point.

Not a perfect chase 

Defending a modest total, the Afghans made a game out of it but England eventually completed the task in 18.1 overs. England never looked in a hurry to complete the chase. Jos Buttler and Alex Hales looked to hit everything but never got their timing right. Ben Stokes looked out of touch with the bat during his brief stay at the crease.

However, he bowled his full quota for the first time in 12 T20 international games, going back to February 2020, Dawid Malan took up too many deliveries during his 30-ball 18. Liam Livingstone remained unbeaten on 29 to see his team through.

Brief Scores: Afghanistan: 112 all out in 19.4 overs (Ibrahim Zadran 30, Usman Ghani 30; Sam Curran 5/10, Mark Wood 2/23, Ben Stokes 2/19) lost to

England: 113 for 5 in 18.1 overs (Liam Livingstone 29 not out; Rashid Khan 1/17, Mohammad Nabi 1/16, Mujeeb Ur Rahman 1/22)

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