Afghanistan is at the top of the world and is enjoying its stay in the rare atmosphere for now.
Here is a country that has been ravaged by war for years, and as if that weren’t enough grief, it was dealt another blow last week: three earthquakes shook the country, killing about 3,000 people and destroying 2,000 homes.
While people moved earth with their bare hands and searched for their loved ones, their cricket team caused one of the biggest shocks in the history of the World Cup. Afghanistan beat defending champions England by 69 runs under the lights of New Delhi and this upset joins Ireland’s win over England in Bangalore in 2011, Zimbabwe’s upset of Australia in 1983 and Kenya’s win over the West Indies in 2011 Year 1996.
“This win will put a little smile on their faces and they might forget these tough days a little,” said Rashid Khan, the country’s most famous all-rounder and one of the stars of that defeat against England.
“I think cricket is the only source that gives them a lot of happiness and a lot of good memories and the people at home are just waiting,” Rashid added.
Now there is no stopping the minnows, who have their sights set on reaching the semi-finals with new momentum on their side.
Ignore Afghanistan at your peril. The squad boasts a top-notch spin-and-seam line-up and boasts a number of batsmen who can add to the scoring like they did against the defending champions.
England were bowled out on 215 thanks to a superb 66 from Harry Brooks. The damage was done by Rashid and his spin partners Mujeeb Ur Rehman with three wickets each and Mohammad Nabi, who got the crucial wicket of Dawid Malan, who made 140 against Bangladesh, for 32.
Afghanistan started brightly with opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who hit an incredible 80 from 57 balls with eight fours and four sixes before being run out, and Ikram Alikhil, who hit 58 and scored 285.
Apart from the three-pronged spin attack, Afghanistan unleashed Fazalhaq Farroqi and Naveen-ul-Haq, who bowled quickly and accurately and dismantled the England line-up.
Great praise goes to the Afghan players who cannot play at home due to the Taliban rulers and many of them no longer live in their own country.
It was England’s second defeat in three games in India and alarm bells are ringing. The defeat did not mean that the English were eliminated, but they had little room for maneuver in the last six group games.
Next up is high-flying South Africa on Saturday, whose chances we can’t imagine against the unbeaten Proteas. In the rest of the schedule, England will face Pakistan, Australia, Sri Lanka and the Netherlands.
Meanwhile, Australia won their first match by defeating Sri Lanka by five wickets. Sri Lanka managed 209 and the Australians responded with 215 for five half-centuries from Josh Inglis (58) and Mitchell Marsh (52).
100,000 fans – almost all dressed in blue – were present at the 132,000-capacity Narendra Modi Stadium as India took on arch-rivals Pakistan in the main game of the tournament.
Unfortunately, the game did not live up to expectations as the home team, cheered on by the fans, claimed a seven-wicket victory.
Skipper Rohit Sharma was at his best with a first-class score of 86 and produced an impressive bowling performance as Pakistan were back in the pavilion at 191 after losing their last eight wickets for 36 runs – down from 155 for two to 191.
After a strong start with captain Babar Azam (50) and Mohammad Rizwan (49), there was a collapse. Both played some attractive shots that got the crowd cheering, but there were no more than 10 Pakistanis in the crowd of that size.
Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja took two wickets each to top Pakistan. Sharma hit six sixes and six fours in his 63-ball knock and Shreyas Iyer weighed in at 53 to thrill fans as India remained unbeaten in three games and Pakistan fell 2-1.
No doubt it was a big one-sided win for India, but how come there were no Pakistani supporters in the stands? The Indian authorities, along with the International Cricket Council, should be ashamed of themselves for denying visas to fans from across the border.
Recommended by Editorial
Cricket and flag football are among five sports that have been granted Olympic status for the 2028 Los Angeles Games
England are back on track at the Cricket World Cup and Pakistan are aiming for a huge win to remain unbeaten
Pakistan cricket director Mickey Arthur said: “To be completely honest, it didn’t seem like an ICC event. It appeared to be a bilateral series; It appeared to be a BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) event.”
He also accused the public address organizers of favoring India by refusing to play Dil Dil Pakistan (My heart is Pakistan)the nation’s unofficial anthem.
ICC chairman Greg Barclay played down the criticism, saying it was par for the course at such tournaments: “In every event we host there is always criticism from different quarters.”
Barclay obviously doesn’t want to rock the boat. He also had nothing to say when the Pakistan national team received their visas only a day before their arrival in India. Some Pakistani cricket journalists are still waiting for accreditation.
This is nothing short of a disgrace for a World Cup event.
Check out our sports section for the latest news and analysis.