LONDON • After hitting a record-breaking 17 sixes in a one-day international innings during England's World Cup rout of Afghanistan on Tuesday, a delighted Eoin Morgan admitted he "never ever thought I could play a knock like that".
The aerial assault helped the captain to a career-best 148 as the hosts piled up 397 for six at Old Trafford.
Afghanistan were never in the hunt, with pre-tournament favourites England winning by 150 runs to go top on net run rate from defending champions Australia.
Morgan, who came in at 164-2, said: "Coming at a time when it was a 50-50 shout whether myself or Jos (Buttler) went in probably helped because after I'd faced a few balls, I had no choice.
"I had to start taking risks because of him coming in next. After I got dropped (on 28), it was just a matter of keep going. One of those days."
Making their mark
1. England's 397 is their highest total in a World Cup match and the sixth-highest in the competition. Australia top the list after they smashed 417-6, also against Afghanistan, in 2015.
2. England blasted 25 sixes in total, breaking their own record for sixes in an innings (24 sixes against West Indies in February). England hit only 18 sixes in six matches at the 2015 World Cup.
3. Captain Eoin Morgan struck 17 sixes in his 148 off 71 balls - a new ODI record to dethrone Chris Gayle (West Indies), AB de Villiers (South Africa) and Rohit Sharma (India) who had shared the record with 16 sixes each.
Morgan's haul was one short of the entire England team's tally for sixes in 2015.
4. Morgan also hit his 200th ODI six as he lifted his overall tally to 211.
5. The Irish-born batsman's century was the fourth-fastest in a World Cup match, hit off 57 deliveries. The record is held by Ireland's Kevin O'Brien, who reached triple figures in 50 balls against England in 2011.
6. Afghanistan leg spinner Rashid Khan recorded the worst bowling figures in a World Cup match, conceding 110 runs in nine overs without taking a single wicket. It was also the joint second-worst in ODI history.
7. Rashid also became the first spinner to concede more than 100 runs in an ODI. Having never conceded more than two sixes in an innings, he conceded 11 of them against England.
8. The 189-run stand for the third wicket between Morgan and Joe Root, who scored 88 runs off 82 balls, was England's highest partnership in a World Cup match.
9. After Afghanistan hit eight sixes in their run chase, the two teams set a record for the most number of sixes hit in a World Cup match (33). The previous record was held by New Zealand and West Indies, who smashed 31 in a match in 2015.
Asked about the feeling of hitting a six, he said: "It's like hitting a golf ball off the tee. If you think it's going straight, you're the only person that knows at the time. It's a very special feeling."
The Irish-born batsman's feat saw him surpass the previous mark of 16 sixes in an ODI innings shared by big-hitters Rohit Sharma (India), AB de Villiers (South Africa) and Chris Gayle (West Indies).
"It's weird, very strange," said Morgan, 32. "It's something, along with the innings, that I never thought I'd do."
His leadership and belief in aggressive cricket have been behind England's rise to the top of the ODI rankings after a woeful first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup.
Morgan's 71-ball masterclass was all the more impressive as he had been doubtful with back spasm that prevented him from batting during England's eight-wicket win over the West Indies last Friday.
"Turning and stuff there was a little (issue), yeah. It took a bit of time before I could get confidence in moving," he added.
Tuesday's innings saw Morgan hit his 13th ODI hundred - 12 for England and one for Ireland.
Once known for unorthodox shots attributed to his childhood exposure to the Gaelic game of hurling, a key feature of his Afghanistan demolition job was the number of textbook straight sixes he hit, which he put down to "looking a little bit more down the ground now".
He is now looking to lead England to their first World Cup title, with Sri Lanka next up for his side at Headingley tomorrow.
"If we can produce the level of intensity at which we operated today, it will leave us in a really good place," he said.
And teammate Mark Wood believes Morgan's "amazing" ball-striking sums up the team's fearless approach to one-day cricket in recent years, sending out a warning that they are peaking at the right time.
The fast bowler said: "To do it in a World Cup game speaks volumes about how Eoin wants the team to play throughout those four years."
Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib noted: "Credit goes to Morgan. He showed his class. I've never seen this kind of batting."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS