Luke Wright steps up at No 3 in superb style

England 196-5 Afghanistan 80 (England win by 116 runs)

Premadasa Stadium

There was to be no romantic outcome, no astonishing feats of derring-do. Not, at any rate, for Afghanistan in the World Twenty20 in Colombo last night.

Instead, it was England, the defending champions, who won at a gallop, propelled thrillingly to an unassailable total by none other than Luke Wright, otherwise known as the new Kevin Pietersen, and then humbling their opponents by dismissing them for 80.

England, who made 196 for 5, won by 116 runs. There was something mildly embarrassing about the proceedings. True, England did exactly what they had to do – the performance of champions almost – but all talk of Afghanistan pushing them all the way to the end was rendered piffle.

The overwhelming nature of the performance, good news for the winners, bad news for the tournament, confirms England's place in the Super Eight stage of the competition. They play India in their second group match tomorrow but it is an academic contest since Afghanistan have already been eliminated by virtue of their two losses.

By any standards Wright was wonderful. He drove, carved and bludgeoned a blistering path to an unbeaten 99 from 55 balls, the joint highest score by an England batsman in Twenty20 internationals. There were eight fours and six sixes in an exhibition of thunderous hitting which put a potentially tricky opening match beyond any doubt.

When England won this tournament two years ago, their No 3 and man of the tournament was Pietersen. For well-chronicled reasons, he is no longer a member of the team after a spectacular dispute with management and colleagues and could only sit and admire in a studio up the road from the ground in his new role as pundit.

Wright was drafted into the role at the last minute when Ravi Bopara, earmarked for the position for months, suffered a dramatic loss of form. England had no alternative but to make emergency arrangements.

While he might not have Pietersen's array of shots or ability to improvise, Wright strikes the ball mightily hard and his straight hitting would knock the spots off a leopard. He is far more discerning than in his early days in the late middle order and the 117 he made for Melbourne Stars in the Australia Big Bash earlier this year changed perceptions of him for ever.

How distant Wright's sustained assault seemed at the start of the match. The first over was a wicket maiden, Craig Kieswetter being bowled by the sixth ball as he played on to a delivery that bounced more than he might have expected.

It demanded circumspection and after four overs England had tottered to 15 for 1. The fifth over changed the course of the match. It yielded 23 runs as Wright and Alex Hales both hit fours and sixes off Shapoor Zadran. The sixth over brought another 14 and while there was a further period of consolidation, the last five overs brought 87 runs.

Hales was unlucky to be run out by a bowler's deflection while backing up but Eoin Morgan joined Wright in another big partnership, of 72 from 47 balls, before the final assault. By then the poor Afghans were spent, their bowling, catching and ground fielding all shoddy.

It continued throughout their innings as England put the squeeze on from the start. The first wicket fell in the first over, a hit and hope club by Mohammad Shehzad, the second in the second, a mistimed drive to cover. So it went on.

One poor shot followed another and England made no mistake in the field. At 26 for 8 after Samit Patel took two wickets in an over Afghanistan were in serious danger of equalling the lowest score ever in an international match – New Zealand's 26 all out, also against England, in the Auckland Test early in 1955.

But a late flourish, led by Gulbadin Naib, took them to a region that avoided utter humiliation. For England this was exactly the start they craved to the defence of their title. For the tournament as a whole it was miserable. It desperately needs some close matches, let alone a last-ball thriller, as well as some crowds. The next stage has to provide them.

Results and fixtures

* Yesterday's results

Group A (Colombo): England 196-5 [Wright 99*] bt Afghanistan 80 all out [Naib 44] by 116 runs.

Group D (Pallekele): New Zealand 191-3 [McCullum 123] bt Bangladesh 132-8 [Hossain 50; Southee 3-16, Mills 3-33] by 59 runs.

* Today's fixtures

Group B (Colombo, 3pm BST)

Australia v West Indies

Group C (Hambantota, 11am)

Sri Lanka v South Africa

* Tomorrow's fixtures

Group A (Colombo, 3pm)

England v India

Group D (Pallekele, 11am)

New Zealand v Pakistan

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent