Ali the star as England survive Afghan scare
Eoin Morgan breathed a sigh of relief about England's strength in depth after a late flourish from Moeen Ali and David Willey spared the team's blushes at cricket's World Twenty20.
Ali and Willey shared an unbroken 57-run partnership for the eighth wicket to reach 142 for seven after being 85 for seven at one stage as England eventually beat the minnows by 15 runs.
After losing early wickets, Afghanistan never looked like overhauling their illustrious opponents but went down fighting as they reached 127 for nine at New Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla stadium.
The result means that Afghanistan have now no chance of progressing to the semi-finals but England are in second place in their group ahead of their final match on Saturday against Sri Lanka.
After last Friday's dramatic victory over South Africa when England pulled off a record run chase in Mumbai, the batting performance was a major letdown.
And Morgan, who was bowled for a golden duck, said that the team should not have been caught unawares by the more turning conditions in New Delhi and had failed to adapt to their new surroundings.
'I think it was simply a matter of not adapting,' Morgan told reporters.
'Coming here and playing a T20 World Cup I think this is the type of wicket that every single one of us were expecting,' he added.
Moeen's unbeaten 41 was the one innings of real note but he was ably supported by Willey who hit two sixes in a sparkling 20 off 17 balls. The penultimate over yielded 25 runs as Amir Hamza took a battering.
'I think difference between 120 and 140 is huge. Our strength is that we bat right down the order. But I thought he (Moeen) batted really well,' said Morgan.
The Afghan slow bowlers made England sweat on a hot and sunny afternoon in the Indian capital to reduce them to 85 for seven.
Skipper Asghar Stanikzai gave the new ball to Hamza and the left-arm spinner did not disappoint, snaring dashing opener Jason Roy in the third over.
James Vince, who came into the side in place of the injured Alex Hales, then tried to counter-attack along with in-form Joe Root with a 26-run second wicket partnership.
But Mohammad Nabi's introduction reaped immediate rewards as the veteran off-spinner soon had both danger men trudging back to the dugout.
Vince was caught and bowled while the departure of Morgan and Root -- who was run out -- in quick succession spelt big trouble for England.
With the batting was in a shambles, leg-spinners Rashid Khan and Samiullah Shenwari joined the party to remind England of their humiliating 2014 World T20 exit when they lost to the Netherlands.
But Ali's 33-ball knock, which was laced with four boundaries and a six, knocked some of the gloss off the Afghan figures.
'They played good cricket especially Moeen Ali so they were able to take the score to 140. He played according to the situation,' said Rashid.
Afghanistan's chase was dealt a severe blow after destructive opener Mohammad Shahzad (four) was trapped lbw off David Willey with the third ball of the innings.
Willey and new-ball partner Chris Jordan kept up the pressure to rattle the Afghan top-order with danger men Stanikzai and Gulbadin Naib managing one and nought respectively.
The minnows slipped further after spin was introduced as Moeen and Adil Rashid struck in their first overs to give Afghanistan a taste of their own medicine.
The Afghans were never in the mix after being reduced to 13 for two and then 39 for five as England gained control of proceedings.
Leg-spinner Rashid soon got another scalp in Mohammad Nabi and Afghanistan's journey in their fourth World T20 appearance was all but over.
Shenwari (22) and Shafiqullah (35 not out) tried to breathe some life into the chase with a few lusty blows in the finale but could do little to alter the outcome.
'If we play with these international teams we have the capability to play good cricket. So we need to play more cricket against these sides,' said Rashid.
England stand second in the Super 10 group table after two straight wins, while Afghanistan remain bottom of the heap.