Wright's 99 helps England start impressively
England 196 for 5 (Wright 99*) beat Afghanistan 80 (Naib 44, Patel 2-6, Broad 2-10) by 116 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The World Twenty20 continued to conform to expectation - disappointingly so, some will say - as England began the defence of their title with a 116-run hammering of Afghanistan. Luke Wright could not quite follow Brendon McCullum's hundred earlier in the day, but produced a blistering 99 off 55 balls after the holders overcame a slightly tricky start in highly convincing fashion.
Wright became the second England batsman to be stranded one short of a Twenty20 hundred following Alex Hales' innings against West Indies earlier this year. Wright only returned to the line-up at the tail-end of the English season and had not really been earmarked for the No. 3 role until Ravi Bopara's rapid loss of form but, having made a brace of useful 30s in the warm-ups, provided further evidence of his development over the last year. He powered past his previous best of 71 against Netherlands, at Lord's, during the 2009 World Twenty20. England, famously, lost that match but there was never a risk of a repeat.
Unsurprisingly, Afghanistan came out swinging with predictable results. Mohammad Shahzad picked out mid-off, Shafiqullah skied to cover and the captain Nawroz Mangal was brilliantly held by Stuart Broad off his own bowling. Much has rightly been written and said about the fairytale of Afghanistan's rise, but this was a harsh of reality check as they slid to 26 for 8. However, they avoided the heaviest defeat in T20 which is Kenya's 172-run defeat against Sri Lanka in 2007 and Gulbodin Naib, with a gutsy display, ensured they passed Kenya's lowest T20 total of 67.
England, though, did exactly what they needed to. Wright was chiefly responsible for some fierce acceleration as they scored 124 off the second 10 overs of their innings after a slow start against some lively new-ball bowling. He started the final over on 95 and needed three off the last ball to make England's first T20 hundred but could only club a brace through midwicket.
He received solid support from Hales and Eoin Morgan while Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow contributed rapid cameos. There were some costly overs during the innings, most notably 32 off the penultimate from Izatullah Dawlatzai which included two no-balls - the same figure that Wayne Parnell went for at Edgbaston earlier in the month putting it joint second in T20 records. It was also another poor fielding display from Afghanistan - Wright was dropped on 75 - as basic skills let them down as they did against India.
It had not been easy start for England as Shapoor Zadran, who troubled India's top order, produced a superb opening over. Craig Kieswetter appeared confused by the two-paced nature of the pitch and played out five dot balls before dragging into his stumps to complete a rare wicket maiden. Hales slashed his first delivery just over slip in a far from assured beginning and after four overs the score was 15 for 1.
Then the game started to change. Having gauged the nature of the pitch, Hales and Wright located the boundary as Shapoor's third over cost 23 although four of those were byes when the wicketkeeper was beaten by the bounce. The final ball of the over was launched into the stands by Wright as England began to take control with the last two overs of the Powerplay bringing 37.
Hales was unfortunate to be dismissed when Wright's straight drive was deflected into the non-striker's stumps by Karim Sadiq. At 84 for 2 after 12 overs the innings hadn't escaped Afghanistan, but Wright dented Samiullah Shenwari's figures with a six over long-on and followed that by fetching another delivery through midwicket.
Mohammad Nabi, the offspinner, bowled his first two overs for 10 but finished with 0 for 46. Morgan flicked him over deep midwicket - his one convincing shot - and Wright went four, six, four off three consecutive deliveries. There was more of that to come with Buttler continuing where he left off against South Africa and Bairstow drilling his first ball into the stands.
Despite having a vast total on the board it was important England did not slack in the field. The quick bowlers made an early impression, zipping the ball through from back of a length with Kieswetter taking a number of deliveries above his head. There was very little for the batsmen to drive although Steven Finn pushed a few deliveries down the leg side.
Broad decided to use his bowlers by the gameplan so Jade Dernbach was given one up front before the captain brought himself on. After a difficult home season of catching and fielding they began well in that department, with Buttler producing a sharp dive and throw from midwicket to run out Sadiq then, next ball, Bairstow held a stunning catch running in from fine leg against a top edged hook from Asghar Stanikzai.
Graeme Swann started with two maidens then was taken for 16 by Naib who often declined singles and showed why by picking off two sweet sixes against Dernbach to mean there would be no record low for Afghanistan and to help himself to the highest score by a No. 8 in T20 internationals. Nobody should read too much into the result, but it was a good statement by the defending champions.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo