England's hopes of a successful World Cup defense took a severe blow as they suffered a shocking 69-run defeat to Afghanistan in Delhi. Captain Jos Buttler, visibly disappointed by the team's performance, called on his players to absorb the hurt and reflect on their shortcomings.
Afghanistan's Rahmanullah Gurbaz led the charge with an explosive knock of 80 from 57 balls, setting the stage for England's downfall. The loss marked England's second defeat in three matches, following a crushing nine-wicket loss to New Zealand in their tournament opener.
The world champions now find themselves in a perilous position, with little margin for error in their remaining six group-stage matches.
Jos Buttler wants team to “let it hurt”
Buttler, speaking at the post-match presentation, emphasized the importance of acknowledging the defeat and learning from it.
“There's no point in just trying to move on very quickly, although you've got to do it as quick as you can,” he stated. “But let it hurt for a bit, let's reflect and work on the areas that we need to get better and we must show some real resilience.”
This defeat is reminiscent of England's setback against Ireland in the T20 World Cup last year, and their more famous loss to the Irish in the 2011 edition of the tournament.
Last year, the loss acted as motivation to secure a historic double of holding both the 50- and 20-over world titles concurrently. Buttler believes that the team's character and experience will play a crucial role in their ability to bounce back.
“As a whole, we are not quite at the level that we'd like to be, and in World Cups and against good opposition, guys putting you under pressure, that's where we need to be,” Buttler admitted.
England's troubles in the match were evident, particularly with the ball. Chris Woakes, their new ball mainstay, endured another lackluster performance, conceding 31 runs off his first three overs, including five wides off the first ball.
Buttler acknowledged the need for improved execution and a better display of skills, both with the bat and the ball.
Afghanistan posted a total of 284, a score that England might have felt was manageable, but their senior spinner Rashid Khan and the rest of the Afghan spin attack strangled England's chase.
England's inability to clear the ropes, managing only one six compared to Afghanistan's eight, further highlighted their struggles.
A second CWC victory, eight years in the making 🇦🇫
— ICC (@ICC) October 16, 2023
Former England cricketer Mark Butcher added his perspective, labeling England's performance with the ball as “miles off the pace.”
He specifically pointed to Chris Woakes' form as a “massive issue” for the defending champions. Woakes' struggles have raised concerns about England's bowling options in the middle overs.
England's preparation for the tournament also came under scrutiny, with Butcher criticizing their approach to playing on slower Indian pitches. He noted a sense of complacency and questioned whether England had underestimated the challenge posed by these conditions.
With their next match against South Africa, who have been in formidable form with the bat, England faces a daunting task. Buttler and his team will need to regroup quickly, with hopes of salvaging their World Cup campaign hanging by a thread.