SYDNEY: England were left having to beat the weather, as well as Afghanistan, to avoid suffering their worst World Cup finish in the tournament’s 40-year history in Sydney on Friday.
After three rain breaks cut short Afghanistan’s innings at 111 for seven off 36.2 overs, England were set a target of 101 to win in 25 overs under the Duckworth/Lewis method with more bad weather forecast.
England have so far enjoyed just one Pool A win at this World Cup, over non-Test Scotland, having already failed to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Back in 1996, England defeated two Associate or non-Test sides in the UAE and the Netherlands before losing to Sri Lanka in the quarter-finals.
Hopes they might finish with a win over World Cup debutants Afghanistan, who themselves had beaten Scotland, were high as the non-Test side collapsed after losing the toss.
No Afghanistan batsman made more than the recalled Shafiqullah Shafiq’s 30.
First change Chris Jordan led England’s attack with two for 13 in 6.2 overs while all-rounder Ravi Bopara, playing his first match of the tournament after an injury to Chris Woakes, took two for 31 in eight overs.
After England captain Eoin Morgan won the toss, Afghanistan found runs hard to come by in the overcast conditions prevailing at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Openers Nawroz Mangal (four) and Javed Ahmadi (seven) both fell cheaply to slip catches by Joe Root off the bowling of James Anderson and Stuart Broad respectively.
But before England could make further inroads, rain stopped play with Afghanistan 24 for two in the ninth over.
The 37-minute break made little difference, with Afsar Zazai caught behind off Jordan for six shortly after play resumed.
But his exit brought in Samiullah Shenwari, who had previously made several fifties at this tournament with a best of 96 in Afghanistan’s one-wicket win over Scotland.
However, Shenwari could only manage seven before his thick edge off Jordan was caught by Morgan, diving forward at backward point.
The fifth-wicket duo of Nasir Jamal (17) and Shafiq — the first two batsmen in the innings to make double-figure scores — took Afghanistan to 62 for four of 25 overs before rain stopped play again.
Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi lofted off-spinner James Tredwell — like Bopara making his tournament debut, following an injury to Moeen Ali, for six over extra cover.
But his near run-a-ball 16 ended when he pulled Bopara straight to Tredwell at mid-on. AFP