Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
England 161 for 1 (Roy 89*, Nabi 1-34) beat Afghanistan 160 (Nabi 44, Root 3-22, Archer 3-32) by nine wickets
After stumbling against Australia in their first warm-up game, England returned to winning ways on the back of three-wicket hauls from Jofra Archer and Joe Root, and a blazing half-century from Jason Roy as they trounced Afghanistan by nine wickets at The Oval on Monday.
Right from the toss, everything went England's way. Under cloudy skies, their seamers took out Afghanistan's top order, before Root and a couple of run-outs took care of the middle and the lower order. And despite Mohammad Nabi's 44, Afghanistan were bundled out for 160 in 38.4 overs.
A target of 161 was never going to challenge one of the strongest ODI batting line-ups of all time. And as expected, England romped to victory in just 17.3 overs, with Roy leading the way with an unbeaten 89 off just 46 balls, with 11 fours and four sixes. In all, it was a perfect outing for England, and a bit of a reality check for Afghanistan after their win against Pakistan last week.
Earlier, in the absence of Mohammad Shahzad, who was rested, Noor Ali Zadran opened the innings with Hazratullah Zazai and it looked as though luck was on his side. In the second over of the innings, Noor Ali dabbed Chris Woakes towards backward point and set off for a single, but a brilliant stop by Roy had him stranded halfway down the pitch. But fortunately for him, Roy missed the direct hit. On the very next ball, he was given caught-behind but got the decision overturned as replays confirmed the ball had only brushed his elbow.
At the other end, Zazai had little answer to Archer's pace and bounce, with the batsman invariably shuffling towards the leg side to deal with his 140kph-plus offerings. Taking his eyes off the ball, he top-edged a bouncer to fine leg for four, then dispatched the next ball, once again a touch short, over cover-point for another boundary. But in his next over, Archer switched to around the wicket, Zazai went for the pull but the angle meant the batsman was cramped and the top edge was pouched by Moeen at mid-on.
Another short ball from Archer, a legcutter, brought an end to Rahmat Shah's innings as he failed to execute the pull and Liam Plunkett accepted the dolly at mid-on.
With all the short stuff from the other end, Noor Ali failed to get forward to a pitched-up delivery from Ben Stokes. Stuck on the crease, he was late to get his bat down as the ball clattered into the stumps off the inside edge. Afghanistan were 49 for 3 in the 12th over.
It was then Root's turn to roll his arm over. Primarily an offbreak bowler, Root sent down quite a few legbreaks and reaped the rewards as well. Asghar Afghan survived against Stokes and Tom Curran but as soon as Root was introduced, he tried to cut loose. Root's first ball was a full toss which was gently pushed down the ground. The next one was a dipping offbreak. Asghar looked to smash it over long-on, only to hit it straight to Roy.
A few overs later, Root came back to dismiss Rashid Khan for a first-ball duck with a legbreak. In between the two dismissals, Hashmatullah Shahidi and Najibullah Zadran were run out, and captain Gulbadin Naib fell to Moeen Ali. Root then accounted for Aftab Alam as well to reduce Afghanistan to 127 for 9.
Coming in at No. 8, Nabi once again showed how good a player of spin bowling he is. He smashed Moeen down the ground and over deep midwicket, while Adil Rashid was lofted inside-out over extra cover, all three hits clearing the boundary line with ease. He eventually fell to Archer while trying to cut one over third man but Jonny Bairstow kept his calm despite a bit of juggle, stepping over the boundary line and back again, to complete the catch to end Afghanistan's innings.
In reply, Bairstow and Roy attacked from the first ball and took 32 from the first three overs. In absence of Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Naib turned to Rashid as early as the fourth over of the innings. Roy cut Rashid's first ball past point for four, the legspinner going for nine in his first over. Of late, especially in the IPL, Rashid has found it difficult to take wickets at the rate he is used to. And that proved true today as well. He conceded 32 from his five overs, without picking up a wicket.
Nabi replaced Rashid and almost bagged Roy with his very first ball, but Dawlat Zadran put down the catch at mid-off. Later in the over, Roy smashed the bowler for a four and a six. Nabi though responded by having Bairstow stumped in his next over, off an arm ball, to break a 77-run opening stand that had spanned a mere 44 balls.
Roy kept going for his shots and took the side to 100 in ten overs. Root also had a decent stay at the crease, scoring 29 off 37, and the two men carried England to a comfortable win.
Afghanistan vs England
ICC Cricket World Cup