New Delhi: A nervy England survived a top-order collapse before dishing out a much-improved bowling and fielding display to beat minnows Afghanistan by 15 runs in a Super 10 Group 1 clash and keep their semifinal hopes alive in the ICC World Twenty20, here on Wednesday.
Electing to bat, England survived a mighty scare and rode on Moeen Ali (41 off 33) and David Willey's (20 off 17) late burst to post a competitive 142 for seven.
Later, after two bad days in office, England bowling attack finally came to the party and picked up wickets at regular intervals to restrict the fearless Afghans to 127 for nine.
Chasing the target in search of their maiden win in the tournament, Afghanistan were dealt a big blow in the opening over when dangerous wicket-keeper batsman Mohammad Shahzad got out in the third ball of their innings, trapped in front of the wicket by a swinging delivery from Willey.
Much was expected from their skipper Asghar Stanikzai but he failed to rise to the occasion and edged a short delivery from Chris Jordan to Joe Root at first slip.
In his next over, Willey dismissed Gulbadin Naib and from there on Afghanistan kept losing wickets continuously and failed to put on a partnership that could have helped them register an upset win.
Samiullah Shenwari (22), Noor Ali Zadran (17), Rashid Khan (15), Najibullah Zadran (14) and Mohammad Nabi (12) all got starts but failed to make any impact.
Towards the end, Shafiqullah (35 off 20 balls) played a cameo with the help of four boundaries and two sixes, but it was not enough to guide Afghanistan over the line.
Leg-spinner Adil Rashid (2/18) and Willey (2/23) picked up two wickets apiece for England.
Earlier, the start was far from rosy for England as they lost half of their side in 8.1 overs with the scoreboard reading just 50.
Backed by some good fielding, Afghanistan dished out a disciplined bowling effort to control the proceedings for a major part of England's innings, barring the last five overs. Jason Roy (5) was the first English batsman to get out in the third over when he was cleaned by a quick delivery from left-arm spinner Amir Hamza.
Young James Vince, who replaced Alex Hales at the top of the order, played some good shots including four boundaries to score 22 off 18 balls and together with Joe Root looked to have stabilised England's innings with a quick 26-run second-wicket stand before an eventful sixth over from Mohammad Nabi (2/17) turned the tables around.
England lost three wickets in the sixth over to make life miserable for themselves. A set Vince first drove a slower delivery from Nabi back to the bowler before skipper Eoin Morgan left a straight one from the bowler in the next delivery only to see the ball crashing on to the stumps.
If that was not enough, in the last delivery of the over, Root, who single-handedly won the high-scoring match against South Africa, became victim of an unnecessary mix-up with Ben Stokes.
England reached their 50 in 7.5 overs but soon lost another wicket in the form of Jos Butler who was brilliantly caught by a diving Nabi at extra short cover off Samiullah Sehwari's bowling.
Wickets continued to tumble for England as they lost Stokes in the next over when the left-hander played on to his stumps.
Moeen and Jordan shared 28 runs for the seventh wicket before the latter was caught off his own bowling by Rashid Khan with England 85 for seven in 14.3 overs.
It took a late burst from Moeen and Willey to take England to a respectable total as the duo used their long handle to great effect and shared unbeaten 57 runs off just 33 balls for the eighth wicket to take Morgan's men close to 150-run mark.
In fact, the last two overs of the innings yielded 35 runs and it all started in the penultimate over off Hamza who was taken to the cleaners by Moeen and Willey, hitting the left-arm spinner for three sixes and one four....