2019 Cricket World Cup: Eoin Morgan powers England to
victory with record innings against Afghanistan
A familiar sight at Old Trafford (Photo: Getty Images)

The pre-match build-up was dominated by question marks over the fitness of Eoin Morgan after he pulled up with a back spasm last time out against West Indies.

Heavy-hitter Jason Roy was already sidelined with a hamstring injury but when it emerged that Morgan was fit to play and James Vince replacing Roy was to be the only change against Afghanistan, many England fans raised their eyebrows at the lack of players being rested with the home side virtually assured of a final four place.

Fortunately for those in attendance at Old Trafford, they were about to be thrilled by an action-packed innings of 148 from 71 balls for Morgan, after Jonny Bairstow had set the foundation with a composed 90.

The England skipper would hit a record 17 sixes as he partnered Joe Root for 101 balls, scoring 189 runs in the process, contributing a large chunk of the tournament favourites’ 25 maximums, another ODI record.

Bairstow steadies before captain onslaught

After Vince failed to take his opportunity against an Afghanistan team who have flattered to deceive throughout the tournament, Bairstow set about working the ball around the wicket with Root.

When Bairstow departed, caught and bowled by Gulbadin Naib, England were batting at barely five runs per over with only 20 left on the scoreboard. That was despite Bairstow accelerating past 50 with a trio of sixes.

However, as Root continued to rack up the runs, without hardly seeming to play a stroke in anger, Morgan took the game to, and away, from Afghanistan. But it could have been a different story had a comfortable catch not been dropped on 28. Morgan smashed a six immediately after his reprieve as he went on to score another 120 runs in an explosive innings that lasted little over an hour.

Rashid Khan was a particular target of Morgan, ending with figures of 0-110 from nine overs. The Afghan hero returned the joint second worst bowling statistics in an ODI against a man not particularly known for his big hitting, ranked only seventh on strike rates in the England squad. Yet boundaries behind the bowler's head and over mid-wicket took a peppering from the left-hander.

Morgan and Root fell within three balls of each other to Naib before Jos Buttler departed an over later. However, there was still time for Moeen Ali to deliver a confidence-boosting 31 from nine deliveries, including four sixes, as he propelled England to just three runs short of 400.

Embed from Getty Images

Afghanistan see out the overs

It took just eight deliveries for England to strike with the ball, Jofra Archer's pace proving too much once again as Noor Ali Zadran was bowled for a duck.

Fellow opener Gulbadin did briefly take the game to England with a knock of 37 from 28 but an excellent catch from Buttler off the bowling of Mark Wood effectively killed the tie.

After limited time at the crease in their previous four World Cup games, not making it past 35 overs in the process, Afghanistan's batters set about trying to find some form rather than chasing a lost cause. Rahmat Shah and Asghar Afghan fell just short of half-centuries, whilst Hashmatullah Shahidi scored 76 from 100 balls.

Despite Archer and Wood taking three wickets apiece, Afghanistan saw out their allocation of overs but fell 150 runs short, even after contributing eight sixes of their own.

Opposite ends of the spectrum

The result propels England to the top of the table, for the time being at least. The individual brilliance of Morgan will capture the attention of the cricket world, particularly as he is behind the likes of Buttler, Roy and Ben Stokes in the super-striking department. You can't help but feel that England aren't far off the complete package.

As for Afghanistan, this result is the latest chapter in a shambolic tournament for the underdogs. Expected to cause some shocks, they are now five games without a victory and have various off-field problems.

Arguably their most talented player, Mohammed Shahzad, has been sent home 'injured', despite the player disputing the claims, whilst several players are under investigation after a restaurant fracas.

Whilst England can't wait to see what is still in store, Afghanistan will be desperately seeking the end of the competition.