Morning you early risers or all-night pullers, and welcome to Sports Mole
's over-by-over updates of England's final World Cup clash with Afghanistan
at the SCG. It can't get any worse, can it?
Crushed, humiliated, eliminated in that order; England's World Cup campaign has been a disaster from start to finish. Avoiding further embarrassment is almost all they can achieve against the Afghans.
The dissection of where things went wrong has already started and will continue for months to come. We have plenty of time to get to that. For now, let us try to be positive and enjoy some cricket, eh?
ENGLAND WIN THE TOSS AND CHOOSE TO BOWL
At last England do something right (that positivity didn't last) as Eoin Morgan
wins the toss and elects to bowl in overcast conditions. It has been wet in Sydney, but we will start on time at 03.30am GMT.
Two changes for England which we both anticipated. Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes are injured and so James Tredwell and Ravi Bopara get their first run outs of the tournament. Token gestures they may appear, but these changes actually give the side a better balance, with Alex Hales expected to open.
Alex Hales, Ian Bell
, James Taylor, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (c), Jos Buttler (wk), Ravi Bopara, Chris Jordan, James Tredwell, Stuart Broad, James Anderson
AFGHANISTAN: Nawroz Mangal, Javed Ahmadi, Afsar Zazai (wk), Nasir Jamal, Samiullah Shenwari, Shafiqullah, Mohammad Nabi (c), Najibullah Zadran, Dawlat Zadran, Shapoor Zadran, Hamid Hassan
Afghanistan also make two alterations, both of which come at the top of the order as Shafuqullah Shafaq and Nasir Jamal are in for Asghar Stanikzai and Usman Ghani. They are actually level on points with England in the Pool A table and will finish above them courtesy of a famous Test-nation scalp.
They have been one of the more impressive associate nations in this World Cup, although more in the bowling department than batting, and their infectious enthusiasm and spirit has been a joy to watch. Their fans make up the majority of the very small number who are currently inside the SCG.
The two sides emerge for their national anthems. Plenty of glum faces in the England lineup and not many singers. Jimmy Anderson has the new ball and three slips in to Javed Ahmadi. Play!
Immediately some swing for Anderson. There hasn't been much of that this tournament but these conditions should assist him. Ahmadi and Nawroz Mangal, promoted from number four, each get off the mark chopping down to third man for singles, but there is almost a breakthrough for Jimmy as he gets one to really nip back and cut through Mangal, with four leg byes the end result.
Broad starts with a wide but goes on to find the edge twice in his opening over. Soft hands save Mangal as the ball drops short of Joe Root at first slip and fortune favours the brave Ahmadi as his flashy drive clears third and brings him two for third-man. Broad wasted little time in going cross seam.
Good from Anderson. He's getting the ball to move both ways and beats the outside edge a couple of times. England's senior players have rightly been slammed for their performances in this tournament, but it should not be forgotten that Anderson is one of the world's best in the right conditions.
A half-hearted appeal for caught behind from Broad, but Buttler behind the stumps shakes his head as a review is considered. The ball nipped back off a length and brushed the thigh pad.
Just one run comes off a third successive over. Anderson's line is largely and good and he dots Mangal (4) up, with a wider delivery then inducing a drive which fails to connect.
Broad turns and trudges back to his mark after another edge fails to carry to the impeccable hands of Jordan, who is very close in at third slip. A square drive brings Ahmadi (6) three. That would have flown to the fence had it not been for the rain, but the slow outfield allowed Bopara to get round.
WICKET! NAWROZ MANGAL caught ROOT bowled ANDERSON 4(28)
Breakthrough for England as Mangal hangs his bat out at what was a bit of a wide long hop from Anderson and Root takes the catch above his head at slip. That was one of Jimmy's worst balls so far and the batsman will be frustrated having battled hard through to survive the good, swinging stuff.
Wicket-keeper Afsar Zazai is the new man in. He has spent much of the tournament coming in at seven or eight and is off the mark with a single to deep square leg. Two extras follow.
WICKET! JAVED AHMADI caught ROOT bowled BROAD 7(15)
Now it is Broad's turn as a perfect length ball just nibbles away a fraction and finds the edge of a fairly loose drive from Ahmadi. It is catching practice for Root and Afghanistan have lost both of their openers.
Youngster Nasir Jamal comes in at four - his first appearance of the tournament. England have used these helpful conditions well so far. You don't need plans and data to figure out why.
PLAYERS OFF FOR RAIN: A bit of drizzle in the air and umpire Billy Bowden wastes no time in waving the covers on. Light rain is forecast in intervals, but hopefully this won't be a long delay. 24-2.
England will be pretty pleased with this start. They have pitched the ball up (it still could have been fuller) and got the ball to swing in friendly conditions. Jimmy was getting it to talk in the final over before the players came off. One delivery even brought a wry smile out of umpire Bowden as it beat Zazai all ends up. Reminiscent of the ball which dismissed Graham Manou in the third Test of the 2009 Ashes series.
Have I watched that DVD box set too much? It makes pretty good Sunday afternoon viewing.
This break is the ideal opportunity for me to update you on the action from this morning's other World Cup match, where New Zealand are facing Bangladesh in Auckland. A second successive century from Mahmudullah has taken the Tigers to 260-6 in the 48th over. He's coming for you, Sanga!
This shows how empty the SCG is. Not too dark overhead, though, which is encouraging.
This is threatening to be one of those days that club cricketers hate. Just enough rain to keep you off, not enough to make it an early first trip to the bar. Play cannot restart while the rain falls, however light.
The in-form Mahmudullah finishes unbeaten on 128 not out from 123 balls as Bangladesh set New Zealand 289 to win. That will be the Black Caps' biggest chase of the World Cup so far and a good chance to test themselves ahead of the quarter-finals. Both sides have already qualified from Pool A.
UPDATE! The news from Sydney is very positive. The covers are off and play should resume in about five minutes. The drizzle won't have left much of a mark on the SCG outfield and therefore a quick restart is possible. We are not expected to have lost any overs following the 35-minute delay.
Anderson finishes off his over with a dot. Chris Jordan will come into attack at the other end. A smart move from Morgan as he looks to induce some swing out of the ball before it gets damp.
Jordan starts with some short stuff but soon gets his length right and beats the edge of a loose drive with the final ball of the power play. Afsar Zazai (7) and Nasir Jamal (0) are the batters.
Anderson is still getting some lovely shape from the ball. He really has his inswinger going. Zazai tucks a single off his hip before Jamal jams his bat down on a couple which nipped back big.
WICKET! AFSAR ZAZAI caught BUTTLER bowled JORDAN 6(14)
Jordan gets in on the act and England have a third wicket. He is full and the ball just holds its line, with a noncommittal prod from Zazai finding its way through to Buttler for a decent catch to his right.
Samiullah Shenwari is Afghanistan's new batsman and arguably their best. He is their most experienced and also their leading run scorer at the tournament. He takes one on the leg-side.
Another move from Morgan that I approve of as he keeps Anderson on for a seventh over. It may be his last for now, though, as he concedes six and receives an official warning for encroaching. Shenwari hits the first boundary of the innings with a sweetly-timed punched from his crease through cover.
Jamal gets off the mark off his 17th delivery, clipping one of his hips for a single. Jordan gets away with a couple of possible wides, but is called for a bouncer which is adjudged too high.
Much later than he'd have hoped, Ravi Bopara is into this World Cup and he starts with a maiden. Jamal is itching to get going and plays and misses at a couple of full, swinging balls.
WICKET! SAMIULLAH SHENWARI caught MORGAN bowled JORDAN 7(11)
Two for Jordan, four for England as this is the big one, if there is such thing in this Afghanistan lineup. Shenwari pushes his hands at a length ball and a thick edge goes to point, where Morgan takes a good catch diving forward. You would like to see England be ruthless now, with the minnows on the rocks.
Shafiqullah joins fellow World Cup debutant Jamal at the crease and his side are in a real hole. He stands tall to get firmly in behind a couple of short balls from Jordan, who has his tail up.
Jamal wafts and prods unconvincingly outside off-stump. There is width on offer from Bopara, but a little swing and no conviction behind the strokes. One jab yields a single to third-man.
Dropping and running into the off-side, Shafiqullah gets off the mark. The Afghans have struggled with these conditions, but their dangerous seam attack will get their turn to profit from them.
A couple of twos for Shafiqullah as he guides Bopara behind square on the off-side and then works him through square leg. He moves onto five off 15 balls, with Jamal three from 31.
Jordan thinks that he has a third wicket when umpire Ravi's finger goes up for a caught behind. Jamal immediately refers and his confidence is justified when replays show that the ball flicked nothing on its way through to Buttler down the leg-side. He got himself into a tangle playing the short ball, though, and does not look comfortable. A carve through cover for four relieves the pressure somewhat.
Afghanistan's most productive over of the innings so far yields eight, but it should have been less as Broad dives over the ball at mid-on and it rolls to the rope despite Morgan's best efforts.
Broad back into the attack and each batsman pick up one against largely short-pitch bowling. Morgan is continuing to attack with three slips, but it will need to be fuller to bring them into play.
James Tredwell finally gets his first roll of this World Cup. England's most reliable one-day bowler over the last two years, many are mystified as to why he has not been given a go earlier, especially considering the struggles of the seamers. His opening over goes for one and drinks are taken.
Broad runs in and hits the pitch again, with Jamal (15 off 48) fending through gully and Shafiqullah (nine off 28) pulling for singles. The length is fuller for the remainder of the over.
There are signs of the drizzle returning as Tredwell begins his second over. The Afghans are trying to work him into the leg-side and Morgan responds by bringing in a leg-slip.
PLAYERS OFF FOR RAIN: It had been threatening for the last five minutes or so and now the rain does come down in Sydney. This will be another frustrating delay for England.
The rain is harder this time and should it set in then we are almost inevitably going to lose overs.
I shall take this chance to update you on New Zealand's progress in Auckland. The Kiwis are really in a game, having seen Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan dismiss their best two players - Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson. Martin Guptil (56) is going well though, with his side 73-2 chasing 289.
Just some news to bring you away from the World Cup and Sussex Sharks have signed a world-class Sri Lankan batsman for the first half of their 2015 Natwest T20 Blast campaign. No, not Kumar Sangakkara, the other one. No, not Tillakaratne Dilshan, the other one. Mahela Jayawardene.
Jayawardene is retiring from one-day cricket after this tournament, and some England players might find that their ODI careers are in the balance when their failings are dissected in the coming months.
So who should stay? Anderson, Morgan, Tredwell? And who should go? Broad, Bell, Bopara? If you are just waking up in England and want to get involved in an early-morning debate, tweet @SportsMole.
UPDATE! The covers are off at the SCG and play will resume at 6.30am GMT, with the match now 45 overs per side. Does that impact on bowling restrictions? Can Jimmy only bowl nine now?
That England selection debate will have to wait for another day, and it will not doubt stir for some time. A new topic; a good score for Afghanistan from here? They would be delighted with 200 I am sure.
The players are ready to go again in Sydney. The reduction in the overs does mean that each bowler is only allowed nine, and with that in mind, Broad is out of the attack and Bopara back on. Play.
WICKET! NASIR JAMAL caught BUTTLER bowled BOPARA 17(52)
As it so often does, a break brings a wicket and Jamal's slog of a 17 is ended by Bopara. The patient number four pushes at one outside off stump and nicks it through straight into Buttler's gloves.
Captain Mohammad Nabi comes to the crease and is a useful number seven, but is immediately in trouble against Bopara as he gets stuck in his crease and then plays and misses outside off.
Tredwell is again tight. Shafiqullah resumed on 10 and is now on 14.
Shafiqullah strikes just the fourth boundary of the innings, flicking Bopara over mid-wicket. The Afghans might as well play positively because one swinging ball has each of their names on it.
Nabi seems to be thinking along those lines and comes down the wicket to create room for himself and beautifully lift Tredwell over extra cover for six. Whether they are attacking England's slower bowlers or going on the attack full stop, this is definitely a change of mindset from Afghanistan.
Again Nabi backs away and the result is another boundary as he carves Bopara for four through point. He is already on 15 from 14 balls and is helping to change the tempo of this innings.
Shafiqullah has the strike and Tredwell manages to restrict him to just two off the over via a nudge into the leg-side. There is no real turn for the Kent tweaker, but he is proving economical.
WICKET! MOHAMMED NABI caught TREDWELL bowled BOPARA 16(17)
Nabi's bright cameo comes to an end as he picks out Tredwell at mid-on. He was waiting on the back foot for anything remotely short from Bopara, but did not get hold of a pull which found the fielder.
A bonus wicket that for England as Morgan tried to sneak some overs in before the power play. Bopara has 2-32 off eight and will likely finish off. Najibullah is the man in at eight.
The left-hander, who made a half-century in Afghanistan's last match against New Zealand, scampers through for a single to gully and some more nervy running brings Shafiqullah two.
Morgan swaps Bopara for Broad as he goes in search of wickets, but if he is going on the attack, why isn't there a slip in place? An edge from Shafiqullah (30 off 60 balls) goes through just where Joe Root would have been perched at slip for a couple as four come off the over in total.
WICKET! SHAFIQULLAH caught BOPARA bowled TREDWELL 30(64)
This is a superb take from Bopara in the deep! Shafiqullah top edges a slog sweep the ball is in the air between the two England fielders on the leg-side boundary. There is initial confusion between Bopara and Jordan, but the former shouts late and keeps his eye on the ball to take an excellent catch diving low.
A first World Cup wicket for Tredwell, but he goes for a boundary next ball as the dangerous Najibullah sweeps flat. He is running out of partners, though, with Hamid Hassan the new man.
Broad's penultimate over goes for only one and he nearly sneaks a second wicket as Hassan manages to dig out a yorker. There is rain around again and we may be off soon. Sad face emoji.
PLAYERS OFF FOR RAIN: With drizzle in the air and the light diminishing, it only takes one Jordan bouncer unconvincingly played by Najibullah for the umpires to wave the players off for a third time.
Najibullah had previously lofted the first ball of the power play - only four overs because of the five lost during previous delays, over Jordan's head for four to take Afghanistan to 111-7. The England paceman responded with a bouncer and that was that. More overs will be lost during this interlude.
These regular rain breaks are at least giving me the chance to keep tabs on the action in Auckland, where Martin Guptill's century has put New Zealand in a good position to chase down 289 vs Bangladesh. The opener has just become Shakib Al Hasan's third victim to leave the Kiwis on 164-3 off 30.4 overs.
The forecast for Sydney is drier as the evening progresses, but unfortunately the rain is still coming down for now. An Englishman complaining about Australian weather. What next? An England win?
The talk is that we have likely seen the last of the Afghanistan innings (111-7 off 36.2 overs) and that England will chase down a Duckworth-Lewis revised total when the rain stops at the SCG. I know enough about the math to tell you that the revised figure will be somewhere between 111 and 500.
That is of course providing that play resumes. This downpour is apparently much heavier than the previous ones and is leaving a more lasting impression on the now puddled outfield. It seems that England have brought the dark cloud that was hanging over their World Cup campaign with them to Sydney.
Grant Elliott's bright little cameo is threatening to take the game out of Bangladesh's reach. He has raced to 27 and New Zealand now need 92 to win off 78 balls, with seven wickets remaining.
This delay is now reaching the 45-minute mark and isn't showing any real signs of ending. An abandonment would leave England with just victory over Scotland to show for the tournament. The horror.
UPDATE: The latest news from Sydney is that the rain has eased. The covers remain on, but the umpires hope to conduct a pitch inspection at 8.30am GMT and we shall learn more then.
Bangladesh fight on against New Zealand, who have lost Elliott to a fine catch on the fence and are now 219-4, needed 70 more to win off 54 balls. Corey Anderson has just announced his arrival with a six.
The Kiwis have also lost Ross Taylor lbw to Nasir Hossain for 56. They need 54 off 42 balls and will win if Anderson and Luke Ronchi bat through. Bangladesh need a couple of quick wickets.
UPDATE: Just as the umpires were walking out for their pitch inspection at the SCG, the rain returned and the covers were quickly restored. We are back to square one. How frustrating.
I've been awake now for six hours and have seen 36 overs of cricket. Someone is going to pay.
We are in for a tense finish in Auckland. New Zealand need 20 off the final 16 balls and have just lost Corey Anderson! Daniel Vettori and Tim Southee at the crease. Can they get the Kiwis over the line?
UPDATE: There is no change in the conditions at the SCG. Play would need to start by 10.06am GMT in order for the game to resume and be completed. Let's hope we don't have to wait until then.
RESULT! No need to fear for the Black Caps as some boundary hitting from Vettori and Southee secure them a three-wicket victory in the penultimate over. Martin Guptill's century was the match-winning contribution, though, while Taylor, Elliott and Anderson chipped in with important runs.
That result means that New Zealand end Pool A with a 100% winning record from their six games. They could face any of Ireland, Pakistan or West Indies in the last eight, while Bangladesh's quarter-final opponents are now confirmed as defending champions and Pool B winners India.
UPDATE: England may yet be able to salvage a victory from this rain-interuppted match. The covers are being taken off at the SCG and there is a pitch inspection scheduled for 20 minutes' time.
If play does resume, England will be batting. Afghanistan's innings has been confirmed over at 111-7 and the Duckworth-Lewis sheets will calculate England's revised total once they know how exactly many overs will be available. They must bat for at least 20 overs to constitute a result.
England have been accused of lacking flexibility and that could be tested should their innings be reduced to the 20-over minimum. Would Ian Bell still open the batting or could Ravi Bopara or Jos Buttler be promoted to join Alex Hales - formerly the number-one ranked T20 batsman remember.
That inspection will be taking place any minute. I'll give you the prognosis as soon as I know it...
UPDATE: PLAY WILL RESUME AT 9.45PM. ENGLAND'S TARGET IS 101 IN 25 OVERS
It has been a while coming but finally some good news from Sydney. England have been set a very modest target which they will surely chase unless there is more rain. One more shower and we're done.
Here we go then. Afghanistan's Shapoor Zadran to bowl to Alex Hales. Ian Bell is his opening partner, perhaps playing in his last ODI. Surely England cannot sink any lower? Play!
Hales is dropped third ball slicing a drive to backward point, where Najibullah spills diving to his left. He should have taken it. Bell launches the final ball elegantly over cover for four.
Hales survives another scare as he mistimes a pull which just loops over mid-on. He had hooked the previous ball for six and another short ball from Dawlat is pulled for four by Bell.
We know that Bell is comfortable going over the off-side infielders and he does that twice to the total of six runs. His first drive is a bit uppish and briefly interested the backpedalling cover.
Afghanistan have depth in their fast bowling department and Hamid Hassan replaces Dawlat. He is right on the money and at 145kmph too. Bell squirms the final ball away to third man.
Another eventful Shapoor set! Hales gets a second lifeline, dropped by Najibullah at point again in an almost replica drop to the first one. This could have been easier still, but the ball just popped out of his hard hands. Hales had previously crunched a cut shot to the point boundary.
The reduced power play is over, but Afghanistan must stay on the attack and so don't spread the field. Bell pierces a gap on the off-side by stroking a full toss for three and Hales works a single into the leg-side. Hassan has been really impressive in this short spell and in the World Cup as a whole.
Dawlat, who was complaining of problems on landing in his first over, gets a change of ends but is again short and Hales swats him away for four. The next bouncer is a bit quicker and the Notts batsman is rushed into top edging a hook which also goes to the boundary. Both men on 22.
It is a shame that Afghanistan's fielding is letting their largely good bowling down. Javed comically dives over one at mid-on to gift Bell two and he collects another by steering to third man.
Captain Nabi brings himself on and immediately gets some turn, a surprise in these fairly damp conditions. England still collect five off the over, three off the bat and two leg byes.
That hint of spin has persuaded Nabi to go to the leg breaks of Samiullah Shenwari. He is a bit short and two flat-bat pulls, with the aid of some poor misfields, brings Bell a total of six.
England are absolutely cruising and move three closer to their target. It would be nice to see them finish with a bit of gusto, but Hales (25 off 26) and Bell (35 off 40) are milking it for now.
Perhaps the most basic fielding mistake of the lot gifts Bell four more as Hassan parries the ball into the rope, which Hales clears with a massive slog sweep off a Shenwari length ball.
Four off the latest Nabi over and it is time for pace again as Hassan returns.
WICKET! ALEX HALES caught ZAZAI bowled HASSAN 37(33)
Hales's luck runs out as he feathers one through to wicket-keeper Zazai. He has the gloves on so won't drop it. It was a good-length delivery and Hales is stuck in the crease. A deserved wicket for Hassan.
James Taylor is back at the number-three position which he occupied before the World Cup and should have done in the previous games. He sprints through for one to get off the mark.
Bell, who has moved onto 45, and Taylor each get the paddle sweep out against Nabi. The Afghan captain has kept things tight, only conceding 13 in his four overs thus far.
Hassan finishes his impressive spell with figures of 1-18 off five. Some good running from Taylor ensures that four come off the over. You won't find many quicker than the Notts jackrabbit.
FIFTY! Taylor gives the strike to Bell and he flashes over the slips and then takes one to third man to bring up another ODI half-century. Just four needed for England to wrap up victory.
Taylor has faced 20 balls for his eight and has been content to largely defend. He attempts a cut which is too close to him and a fine edge brings him two to third man. The scores are tied.
ENGLAND 101-1 (BELL 52*) beat AFGHANISTAN (111-7) by nine wickets on D/L method.
A canter of a chase for England after the rain fell. They end what has been an otherwise dismal World Cup campaign on a winning note and finish fifth in the Pool A table, one place above Afghanistan.
It turned out to be an important toss to win for Eoin Morgan. His bowlers got far the best of the conditions and bowled fairly well in them, and England then benefitted from a reduced revised target.
Chris Jordan collects the man-of-the-match award for his 2-13. He will be back again, but many of this side may have played in their last World Cup game. England need a fresh start in ODI cricket. That will undoubtedly be discussed in detail in the weeks and months to come. England fly home tomorrow.
Afghanistan will have much fonder memories of their debut World Cup, in particular that memorable win over Scotland. They have plenty of talent in their bowling ranks and this will prove to be an invaluable experience for them going forward. The tournament would have been poorer without them.
That's it from me for now. Thanks for joining Sports Mole throughout a frustrating, rain-hit morning and rejoin us for live updates of Australia vs. Scotland - the final Pool A game from Hobart - from 3.00am tomorrow. Until then, enjoy this rare and famous England victory. Goodbye.