T20 World Cup: Sam Curran takes five wickets in England’s opener win over Afghanistan

ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Team 1, Perth
Afghanistan 112 all out (19.4 overs): Curran 5-10, Stokes 2-19, Wood 2-23; Ibrahim 32
England 113-5 (18.1 overs): Livingstone 29*, Hales 19, Nabi 1-16
England won by five wickets

England’s bowlers cruised to a five-wicket victory over Afghanistan as Jos Buttler’s side got off to a winning start to the T20 World Cup in Perth.

Sam Curran took 5-10 – England’s first five-wicket haul in men’s T20s – in an all-round bowling performance backed by a stunning display of catching.

Curran claimed four wickets in six balls at the death, after Mark Wood and Ben Stokes took two wickets each, as Afghanistan were bowled out for 112 in 19.4 overs.

The standout, however, was England’s fielding: a superb catch by Adil Rashid and a remarkable one-handed catch by wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.

England’s batting order failed in the chase, moving to 97-5 against a tough Afghanistan attack, but the target was never likely to be defendable.

Liam Livingstone made 29 not out as England won with 11 balls remaining.

Earlier in the day, New Zealand stunned the hosts and runners-up Australia in the same group England have moved into second place behind the Black Caps.

The next game is against Ireland on Wednesday, followed by Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground two days later.

England have won the match on the field

Their sloppiness with the bat will take some of the shine off their win but, after suffering a week of knocks in the first group stage, England will be only too happy to avoid a similar fate against a dangerous Afghanistan side.

The batting lacked a ruthless edge, but the fielding performance was as good as it has been in recent memory.

Wood began his spell of bowling – the fastest recorded in a T20 World Cup – catching Rahmanullah Gurbaz behind with his first ball to start the third over.

After that, the catch-up clinic began.

First, Liam Livingstone sprinted through deep cover before diving to spot Rahmanullah Gurbaz. Moeen Ali then ran into the back to take one that falls over his shoulder from extra cover as Ibrahim Zadran, Afghanistan’s top run-scorer, was dismissed for 32 balls.

The selection was taken from Rashid. He ran back through mid-off to catch a skier from Najibullah Zadran out of the night sky before captain Mohammad Nabi gloved the diving Buttler down the leg side.

It was a display that gave England’s batsmen plenty of room to manoeuvre, space they surprisingly needed.

Curran just keeps on giving

Curran had a wicket for eight runs when he started in the 18th over, with Afghanistan still hoping to climb from 106-5.

Ten balls later he bettered England’s previous best figures: Adil Rashid’s 4-2 against West Indies in 2021.

The 24-year-old has quickly become England’s go-to bowler. Again, he closed the innings impressively with slower ball bounces.

“At the start of the game, I didn’t expect to go that way, but it was a great performance from the boys,” Curran said.

Also impressive was Stokes, who bowled first and deserved his two wickets. Crucially, he is all over the world with the ball, allowing England to continue playing their big seven batsmen.

England have missed an opportunity to increase their net run rate

At the start of the chase he expected England to win by a wide margin.

In doing so, they would increase their clean sheet, which could be important if they are tied on points with any other team at the end of this group stage.

Instead, they lost openers Jos Buttler and Alex Hales – both caught in the deep side – for 18 and 17 respectively. Hales had already been fired twice by then.

The spinners took over and England couldn’t hit their free form. Ben Stokes was bowled for two by Mohammed Nabi, who then caught Dawid Malan off Mujeeb ur Rahman for 18 off 30 balls.

Had Afghanistan taken those chances, the game could have been different, but realistically they never had enough runs.

Livingstone hit three fours, showing signs of form on his return from injury, which could be vital for England to continue their quest for a second men’s T20 World Cup title when they travel to Melbourne.