Wright gets England off to flying start

Blackpool Citizen: England's Luke Wright hit 99no in the victory against Afghanistan England's Luke Wright hit 99no in the victory against Afghanistan

Luke Wright's unbeaten 99 got England's defence of their ICC World Twenty20 crown off to a perfect start in a record 116-run trouncing of Afghanistan at the Premadasa Stadium.

Wright crunched eight fours and six sixes from only 55 balls, and became the second Englishman this year to miss out on his country's first Twenty20 century by just a single run.

He powered England to 196 for five, overwhelming any prospect of a successful Afghanistan chase as the minnows folded to 80 all out in reply.

It was down only to number eight Gulbodin Naib's 44 that they bettered by 13 runs the lowest-ever score by any international team in this sprint format.

England are therefore assured of a place in the Super Eight stages, irrespective of how they fare back on Sunday against India - who have also qualified after their own opening Group A victory over Afghanistan.

Wright, absent for nine Twenty20 matches until Ravi Bopara's loss of form necessitated his return this month, could manage only two from the final ball of the innings to finish stranded one run short of three figures. His 99 came three months after team-mate Alex Hales had been dismissed for the same score at Trent Bridge against West Indies.

Number three Wright shared stands of 69 for the second wicket with Hales, and then 72 for the third with Eoin Morgan. He came to the crease with England immediately up against it, after Craig Kieswetter allowed Shapoor Zadran to open the match with five dot balls and then edged the sixth down on to his stumps as the left-armer began with a wicket maiden.

It was inconceivable that Afghanistan would be able to get anywhere near their target - and that was reinforced after two wickets had fallen in the space of two balls inside the first two overs.

When captain Stuart Broad pulled off an outstanding return catch to see off Nawroz Mangal - and from 14 for three, it was merely a question of where England's yawning victory margin might stand in the record books - especially when they reduced their opponents to 26 for eight at one stage.

Only Naib mustered double figures, and was responsible for more than half his team's total - including 16 runs in an over off Graeme Swann and then successive sixes off Jade Dernbach. England were in cruise control, however, as they continued to outclass the opposition on the way to erasing their 2005 100-run win over Australia as their biggest victory margin in this format.

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