New Delhi: Moeen Ali’s timely cameo helped England overcome a spirited Afghanistan by 15 runs but only after surviving a scare against the minnows at the World Twenty20 in New Delhi Wednesday.
Moeen’s unbeaten 41 pulled England out of a tough spot to post 142 for seven after opting to bat and then the bowlers did their bit to restrict Afghanistan to 127 for nine.
The results means that confirms that Asghar Stanikzai’s side is out of the hunt for a semi-final spot after three straight losses in the Super 10 stage.
An unbroken 57-run eighth wicket partership between Ali and David Willey (20) made sure England kept their winning momentum going and keep their hopes alive for a place in the last four.
But the Afghan slow bowlers made England sweat on a hot and sunny afternoon in the Indian capital to reduce them to 85 for seven.
It was hard to imagine it was the same English batting team that had pulled off a record chase against South Africa last Friday.
Stanikzai gave the new ball to Amir Hamza and the left-arm spinner did not disappoint, snaring dashing opener Jason Roy in the third over.
James Vince, who came into the side in place of the injured Alex Hales, then tried to counter-attack along with in-form Joe Root with a 26-run second wicket partnership.
But Mohammad Nabi’s introduction reaped immediate rewards as the veteran off-spinner soon had both danger men trudging back to the dugout.
Vince was caught and bowled while captain Eoin Morgan was out for a golden duck, putting Nabi on a hattrick. Ben Stokes denied Nabi his third strike in as many balls.
But Root’s run-out in the same over spelt big trouble for England.
With the batting in a shambles, leg-spinners Rashid Khan and Samiullah Shenwari also joined the party to remind England of their humiliating 2014 World T20 exit when they lost to the Netherlands.
But Ali’s 33-ball knock, which was laced with four boundaries and a six, knocked some of the gloss off the Afghan figures. Willey also got stuck into Hamza’s left-arm spin as the duo managed to score 25 runs out in the penultimate over.
Afghanistan’s chase was dealt a severe blow after destructive opener Mohammad Shahzad (four) was trapped lbw off David Willey with the third ball of the innings.
Willey and new-ball partner Chris Jordan kept up the pressure to rattle the Afghan top-order with danger men Stanikzai and Gulbadin Naib managing one and nought respectivley.
The minnows slipped further after spin was introduced as Moeen and Adil Rashid struck in their first overs to give Afghanistan a taste of their own medicine.
The Afghans were never in the mix after being reduced to 13 for two and then 39 for five as England gained control of proceedings.
Leg-spinner Rashid soon got another scalp in Mohammad Nabi and Afghanistan’s journey in their fourth World T20 appearance was all but over.
Shenwari (22) and Shafiqullah (35 not out) tried to breathe some life into the chase with a few lusty blows in the finale but could do little to alter the outcome.
England stand second in the Super 10 group table after two straight wins, while Afghanistan remain bottom of the heap.