Shahid Afridi made one of the most remarkable comebacks in international cricket in leading Pakistan to a crushing 126-run victory over the West Indies in the first One-Day International (ODI) at the Guyana National Stadium.
Omitted from his country’s failed Champions Trophy campaign, the mercurial all-rounder returned the best-ever ODI bowling figures by a Pakistani, and the second best overall, in snaring seven for 12 to rout the home side for just 98 off 41 overs after having top-scored with a typically swashbuckling 76 in the visitors’ total of 224 for nine.
“I try hard and I back myself but I also want to thank the people back home who’ve been supporting me,” said Afridi. “It’s not the time for me to just survive in the team, but to give a lot to the team through my performance.
“I tried to stay positive. Whenever I got the ball in my zone I went for it. It was a good pitch for me to bowl on. I just kept it simple, and it worked.”
This match represented yet another stunning spike in the 17-year international career of Afridi whose ability to delight and entertain with his extravagant manner has often been overshadowed by an almost chronic failure to deliver at the most critical of times.
Fortunately for Pakistan, this was not one of those times and his impact on the match started with his domination of a 120-run sixth-wicket partnership with his captain, Misbahul Haq (52), the pair rescuing their team from the depths of 47 for five after gangling fast-medium bowler Jason Holder had wrecked the top order in finishing with the excellent figures of four for 13.
While Misbah laboured towards yet another workmanlike half-century, occupying 121 deliveries, Afridi’s knock was a hurricane in comparison, featuring five sixes and six fours off just 55 deliveries.
He looked well on the way to completing a hundred but perished in the 39th over, caught by Darren Sammy at deep midwicket off the bowling of Kieron Pollard.
West Indies would have been expecting the likes of Pollard and fellow big-hitter Chris Gayle to produce similar innings to give their team a fighting chance of getting the 225 runs needed for victory.
However, that hope never materialised, and while Afridi took most of the glory with his demolition job with the ball, the early damage was done by Mohammad Irfan.
Only Samuels (25) showed any resistance, but it was never going to be enough against a rampant Afridi, who finished off the match by trapping Holder palpably leg-before wicket.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2013.
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