Afridi rolled back his career in style

Afridi was a runaway man-of-the-match but it's just not his qucikfire 51 runs and two for 16 spell alone, he mattered when Pakistan were tottering.

updated: June 19, 2009 07:45 IST
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Just when Shahid Afridi's international career was touted as over, he rolled back his years in magnificent style, fashioning Pakistan's seven-run victory over South Africa to power his side into the finals of the Twenty20 World Cup at Trent Bridge here.

Afridi was a runaway man-of-the-match but it's just not his qucikfire 51 runs and two for 16 spell alone, he mattered when Pakistan were tottering at 28 for two in the third over while batting and hopelessly watching South Africa coast to 40 for no loss in the sixth over in the second half.

He repaid the faith of selectors and cricket fans with interest at Trent Bridge on Thursday.

Afridi's is a saga needs to be told in full. This is his first half century in any form of cricket after 18 months. He shunned opening, where all his big innings have materialised and preferred middle order, only to complain that he wasn't getting enough overs to bat!

Just for good measure, keeping in tune with his mercurial ways, he averred to be treated as a bowler alone and any runs while batting was a mere bonus.

But Pakistan wasn't going to give up on him in a hurry. They realised that for all his fault, he still was the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 2007 edition of ICC World Twenty20, that he still has the fastest hundred off mere 37 balls in one-day cricket; that the 18 balls he took for his half century once is only one ball off the fastest ever; that he has 249 sixes from 276 matches; that he has been one of the leading bowlers in ODIs for the last two successive years.

Pakistan remembered all this even as Afridi hit a new bottom every day.

But at Trent Bridge yesterday, faith once again was put on his strong shoulders and Pakistan chose him as its' best man when a crisis was brewing. Another wicket at that stage and Pakistan were as good as gone. South Africa, like a shark, had tasted blood and were circling in the pool menacingly.

For Pakistan, Afridi was the man for the moment, notwithstanding his dislike for the new ball or that South Africa possessed possibly the most potent new-ball pair in the tournament.

Soon Pakistan were up and away. Afridi swung his bat in an arc but the bat lift had clearly been cut down. Instead of aiming ambitious sixes over extra cover, Afridi was only chipping it over the fielder. It must be the only fifty in Afridi's career where he did not hit a single six and still took just 34 balls to reach the half century.

South Africa fell to the raw genius of Afridi whom the team loves to call the "lala" and yesterday, the team had a feeling as rich as the name suggests.