A standing ovation for Afridi!
Who would have believed that Pakistan would reach 200 when they were 97 for 6? Who could have guessed that Pakistan would win when Sangakara and Jaywardena were cruising along at 155 for 3? As heads dropped in dismay, one man could hear the call of destiny.
When Shahid Afridi walked on to the field Pakistan was in trouble and it seemed they wouldn’t even make 150. Less aggressive than usual, but he still lit up the stadium with three hits out of the park. His 75 was the highest score of Pakistan’s innings and as it turned out, it was the highest score of the match. It was also the fastest with Afridi scoring at more than one run per ball.
Because of his efforts Pakistan set the Sri Lankans a target of 201. It looked a little, though, with the two maestros of the Sri Lankan batting making a brace of 50s. But, again it was Afridi who put up his hand and provided the breakthroughs. Both Sangakara and Jaywardena perished to Afridi as he took five wickets, and became in the process, the first person to score a fifty and take five wickets twice.
The Sharjah crowd had waited eight years to see Team Green play an ODI and was treated to watching Afridi take five wickets.
It was only fair that the match finished with the last wicket falling to Afridi as Pererra was caught at the boundary. Pakistan had won an unforgettable match.
This brought back memories of another match played at the same stadium some 12 years ago between the same two teams. Then also Pakistan’s batting had struggled and we had barely been able to make 196. The match looked lost for all purposes but one man thought otherwise. Abdul Razzaq took four wickets (five in total) in a spell of swing bowling that left everyone mesmerized and blew away the Sri Lankan batting order to leave the match tied.
This time round Razzaq was watching from the pavilion. as he had been dropped for the match, but Afridi took over and the result was almost the same. While that match was tied but this one went in favour of Pakistan. In both instances, I was glued to the television screen.
After the match Afridi said that he had a point to prove:
"Actions speak louder than words. There were a lot of challenges and there were a lot things that I had to prove wrong.”
Afridi did prove one thing as he single handedly sealed the series for Pakistan. He proved that where there is a will, there is a way! It was a once in a lifetime performance but I do hope we see more such performances by Afridi and Team Green.
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