Afghanistan victory was never in doubt, insists England skipper Eoin Morgan despite nerve-jangling batting collapse

 
Ross McLean
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ICC World Twenty20 India 2016:  England v Afghanistan
Moeen Ali top scored for England with 41 (Source: Getty)

England skipper Eoin Morgan insists the prospect of defeat never crossed his mind despite minnows Afghanistan threatening to land a knockout World Twenty20 blow before succumbing to a 15-run defeat in Delhi.

A stumbling England stuttered to 42-4 and then 57-6 before a 33-ball stand of 57 between all-rounders Moeen Ali and David Willey propelled the 2010 winners to 142-7.

That partnership calmed England’s jangling nerves and the loss of regular wickets blighted first-round qualifiers Afghanistan, who reached the final over of their reply requiring 24 runs to win, only to plunder eight and finish on 127-9.

If Group 1 leaders West Indies defeat South Africa on Friday and England beat defending champions Sri Lanka on Saturday, Morgan’s side will be guaranteed a place in the tournament’s last four.

Asked whether he had contemplated defeat, Morgan said: "No, absolutely not. We let them in by under-performing with the bat but I thought our bowling was outstanding. In the field as well, we were pretty good, which is a good sign.”

Morgan, who was out for a first-ball duck, dismissed any concerns over England’s long-term batting strength despite their ominous collapse, pointing instead to a lack of discipline against spin bowling on a slow pitch.

“We chased down 230 a game ago [against South Africa]. It was simply a matter of not adapting,” added Morgan. “Coming here and playing a T20 World Cup, I think this is the kind of wicket that every single one of us was expecting.

“The executions of our plans were off by a long way. It’s very important between now and the Sri Lanka game that we sit down as a group and emphasise what we are trying to do and make sure it’s the right plan, and reinforce that.”

England had progressed to 41-1 before a catastrophic sixth over saw stand-in opener James Vince, Morgan and Joe Root all depart.

The cheap loss of wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes meant a wilting England had lost five wickets for 15 runs in 24 deliveries, with memories of defeats to Ireland, Holland and Bangladesh in recent tournaments re-surfacing.

Moeen, with Chris Jordan initially and then Willey, began the rebuilding operation as England amassed 44 runs from the final three overs. Moeen finished unbeaten on 41 and Willey 20, with the latter smashing two huge sixes.

The shift in momentum was boosted by Willey snaring explosive opener Mohammad Shahzad third ball of the reply, while a second wicket for the 26-year-old and one from Jordan left Afghanistan on 13-3.

Yorkshire’s Liam Plunkett posted figures of 0-12 from his four overs, while a steady stream of wickets, including two for leg-spinner Adil Rashid, boosted England’s chances of reaching the semi-finals.