World Cup 2019: Eoin Morgan’s explosive ton mauls Afghanistan
Eoin Morgan hammered a 71-ball 148. (AFP Image)

MANCHESTER: Against AfghanistanEngland posted the highest total of the World Cup 2019, and leading the way of a royal pasting was the captain of one of the two favourites to win the tournament. Eoin Morgan, who walked off the field against West Indies and remained in doubt against Afghanistan, dispelled all questions surrounding his fitness with a thrilling century, his quickest in ODIs and the fourth-fastest in World Cups.

A day before the match, Morgan had not ruled out the possibility of Afghanistan springing a surprise, but himself ensured no such thing happened. Morgan pummelled a total of 17 sixes, the most by a batsman in an innings, overtaking Rohit Sharma, AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle. The result: a career-best 148 with England registering a monster 397/6, their highest ever in World Cup. ALSO READ: England vs Afghanistan, Live Blog

Morgan was aided by Jonny Bairstow’s 98, who laid the platform for his skipper’s carnage. But as wonderful as that knock was, Morgan’s remorseless hitting overshadowed it, to an extent that Joe Root‘s 88 off 82, which partnered Morgan in a stand of 189, almost remained an afterthought. Afghanistan had a century too, with Rashid Khan, their best bowler, conceding 108 in nine overs and bled 11 sixes.

Fighting for early advantage in a cat and mouse battle, Mujeeb Ur Rahman opened the bowling for Afghanistan and kept England quiet initially. In that while, Dawlat Zadran bowled short, and James Vince, Jason Roy’s replacement, cracked a couple of delightful boundaries before top edging a bouncer to short fine leg.

England were expected to score around eight an over, but they were a lot more sedate in their approach to reach 46 in the first ten overs. Afghanistan’s fears of not building on Vince’s wicket came true with Bairstow and Root forging a partnership – one which began to look scary one the spinners came on.

Afghanistan offered Rashid a two-over spell, in which he was belted for a six and a four by Bairstow. Mohammad Nabi was dispatched over cow corner and the part-time of Rahmat Shah was drilled down the ground for six. A thunderous cover drive brought up Bairstow’s fifty, his second of the tournament, off 61 balls. Following their 95-run association against West Indies in the previous game, Bairstow’s 100-partnership with Root was raised off just 98 deliveries, the fourth time they did so in ODIs.

Bairstow was beginning to look really dangerous and just 10 shy of his century when the Afghanistan skipper brought himself on. He took a sharp return catch to bring out his trademark Popeye celebration and end the threatening-looking partnership. But poor fielding once let Afghanistan down. By the 25th over, there were at least 10 misfields, including Nabi losing the ball in the sun and not converting the half-chance.

Morgan showed he was match fit by swatting four sixes within his 30 balls. When he skied a drifter from Rashid, Dawlat dropped the simplest of catches. And the floodgates opened.

Sixes is what Morgan dealt in. With his fifth, Morgan reached his fifty and two balls later, added a sixth when he crunched Mujeeb over long leg. The seventh came curling towards the media centre and the eighth pulled over midwicket the next ball. The next three sixes were hit in a span of five balls, getting Morgan to a 57-ball century. It took England just 14 balls to race to 300 from 250 and 21 for Morgan to go from 50 to 100. Rashid, Afghanistan’s best bowler, conceded 11 sixes.

It did not stop there. For the second time, Morgan took Rashid for three sixes in an over, before taking on Dawlat for 17 in the 46th. His counterpart Naib was clubbed for two more before Morgan finally perished in the deep. With his departure, the chances of England getting to 400 dimmed. Dawlat bagged a consolation price with wickets – of Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes – before Moeen Ali’s nine-ball 31 left England three shy of 400.

Brief Score: England 397/6 (Eoin Morgan 148, Jonny Bairstow 90; Gulbadin Naib 3/68) against Afghanistan.