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July 10, 2006
Inzamam-ul-Haq and Shahid Afridi both struck powerful cameos as Pakistan beat an International XI side in a charity match at The Oval, despite 50 from Sachin Tendulkar. Rain and gloom reduced the Twenty20 clash to a ten-over-a-side encounter but a 20,000-plus crowd were entertained by the glittering array of stars on show and raised £250,000 for survivors of last October's earthquake in Pakistan.
On a wet and gloomy evening in south London, chasing 124, Afridi did what he does best and clobbered the bowling around the park. In the space of just 12 balls, he smashed 41 runs - 22 of which came from his first four balls. The unlucky victim was Zaheer Khan who, bowling in near darkness, was hit for three sixes and a four in typically violent manner.
Inzamam then finished off Afridi's work with a pugnacious 36 as Pakistan, needing 18 off the last over, sneaked home off the penultimate ball.
Earlier, Tendulkar and Brian Lara put on 72 for the first wicket with Tendulkar bringing up his 50 from 26 balls with eight fours and a six. He might have been facing bowlers of international experience for the first time in close to four months but there was little to suggest any sort of discomfort. He fetched boundaries off three powerful pull shots - two fours against Shahid Nazir and a huge six off Waqar Younis - and appeared to have his shoulder worries under control.
The free-flowing delight of Lara and Tendulkar was soon overshadowed by some brutal hitting from Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Not only did he crunch 35 from 13 balls, unleashing his characteristic hoicks, but also added to Pakistan's woes in the bowling department. With Rana Naved-ul-Hasan ruled out of the series and Mohammad Asif doubtful for the first Test, starting in Lord's on July 13, the last thing Pakistan would have wanted is a further denting of their bowlers' confidence.
Mohammad Sami was nowhere close to his best; Umar Gul, bowling with a high-arm action, got only one over; Shahid Nazir was carted to various corners and Abdul Razzaq , on today's performance at least, won't be sending too many shivers down too many batsmen's spines.
Of course, it was just a charity match; of course, the bowlers weren't stretching themselves; and of course, it didn't even matter to the eventual result. When you have a monster hitter like Afridi in your ranks, why sweat over minor trifles like your pace-bowling attack?
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.