Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 4th ODI, Sharjah November 20, 2011

Afridi single-handedly delivers unassailable lead

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Pakistan 200 (Afridi 75, Fernando 3-26) beat Sri Lanka 174 (Sangakkara 58, Jayawardene 55, Afridi 5-35)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Sharjah's die-hard cricket tragics waited eight years to see their favourite team in one-day action. They got their fill on Sunday, treated to five unforgettable vistas of Shahid Afridi's trademark arms-aloft celebration, as he single-handedly pipped Sri Lanka in a dramatic finish. Chasing 201 to level the series, Sri Lanka were on course with Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara reducing the equation to 46 needed off 74 balls. Afridi was, however, reading from a script no-one else had access to. He derailed the lower order with a mix of legbreaks, googlies and fastish offspinners, as Sri Lanka floundered hopelessly to lose their last seven wickets for just 19 runs, and with it the series.

That Pakistan even had 200 to defend was down to Afridi again, after they had disintegrated to 97 for 6. The situation was dire enough to force Afridi to change his normally aggressive approach and play within himself. Not only did Afridi manage the feat, he also managed to accelerate and finish with a (by his standards) modestly paced 75 off 65 balls, setting up the first instance of a player making a fifty and taking five wickets in an innings, twice.

Afridi scarcely put a foot wrong today, except when a sliding stop went awry early in the chase. His knee got stuck in the turf, wrenching out a massive divot as he landed in agony. Afridi was helped off the field, but even that wasn't enough to keep him out of the action for long.

By the time Afridi and Saeed Ajmal came on, Sangakkara and Jayawardene had settled in after Aizaz Cheema's opening spell had accounted for the openers. Ajmal started off with a maiden to Sangakkara, before Afridi - limping, but buzzing with energy nevertheless - made him look ordinary in his first over. He beat Sangakkara with a googly, and got him to inside-edge a legbreak past the stumps. Ajmal then slipped a doosra past Jayawardene's outside edge for the umpteenth time in the series, and Afridi dipped a legbreak menacingly close to his off stump.

With the run-rate under control, Sangakkara and Jayawardene buckled down and focused on playing time. Only three boundaries came in the 17-over phase starting with the 18th over, but Sri Lanka were within touching distance at the end of that grind. Jayawardene and Sangakkara passed their 50s, and ten Pakistani shoulders dropped in unison. One man was not finished, though.

After troubling Sangakkara endlessly, Afridi slipped a quick fizzer through his gate in his sixth over. Angelo Mathews was beaten by an Afridi legbreak and two Ajmal doosras before feathering his fourth ball down the leg side. The Sri Lankan dressing room began to look uneasy once Afridi ripped Jeevan Mendis out with an offbreak that angled in from round the stumps and straightened at 84 kph.

With 34 needed off 7 overs, Jayawardene held the key, but Afridi lulled him into driving low to Mohammad Hafeez who held well at cover. Seekkuge Prasanna scudded his first ball low to the left of the pitch, but the ease with which Afridi swooped and plucked it made for as telling viewing as the X-man celebration that followed. Within the space of three overs, he had flipped the game open. It was only fitting that he got the last wicket, when Thisara Perera slogged into the sky with the game already out of Sri Lanka's grasp.

Afridi's impact was just as telling with the bat, if not as dramatic. Dilhara Fernando did the early damage before Sri Lanka's young spinners found their voice for the first time since Muttiah Muralitharan's retirement, exposing Pakistan's inability to read the variations. Hafeez holed out recklessly, while Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal were clueless against Mendis' googlies.

Afridi's methods were perfect for the situation, though. He picked the spinners from the hand more often than not, but when he didn't he gave himself enough time to read them off the track. When Sri Lanka landed it in his zone, he pummelled them. Lasith Malinga was crashed through the covers, Mendis was bombarded over long-on, but Pakistan's mess was about to become messier.

Misbah ran himself out for the second time in two games, and Sarfraz Ahmed fell by the wayside, leaving Afridi shepherding the tail. Like he would later in the evening, Afridi found a willing partner in Ajmal. Their stand featured some feverish calling and smart running in the batting Powerplay, as Pakistan's tally ticked over from the abject to the realms of the defendable.

With ten overs to go, Afridi targeted Prasanna, backing away and lashing him with the spin for a six over extra cover to bring up his first fifty in 16 innings. He then thumped him straight and hacked through the covers for fours, before launching another six down the ground. Fernando dropped him off the next ball, but Afridi could not extend the carnage as he perished in the 44th over. Perhaps, the man knew right then that he already had enough to play with.

Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dariuscorny on November 23, 2011, 15:26 GMT

    such a scarcity of players Pakistan is facing at the moment that player like Afridi is like a legend for them.once in 100 game performer.i mean u can debate over some other player frm Pakistan but Afridi does not even qualify for the same.Even Shakib Al Hasan is far better than him.

  • Rajchamp on November 23, 2011, 11:16 GMT

    LOL some Pakistan fans seems to have got really frustrated after realizing how dismal Pakistan's record against top teams has been. 1 person said Indian youngsters don't perform outside home, dude check what the over rated Pakistan young players have done. Which series have they won outside sub-continent recently?? England? NZ? Aus? SA? WI? NONE. People speaking about WI's batting performance against Indian bowling in current test match, India HAVE WON THE TEST SERIES AGAINST WI IN WI. AND HAVE ALREADY WON THE CURRENT SERIES 2-0. What has Pakistan done? Could not even beat second strength WI team in test series in WI?? Without winning anything except this current ODI series they seem to think that Pakistan have become best team. But truth is India ARE WORLD CHAMPIONS, THEY ARE NO.2 IN ICC TEST RANKINGS.

  • Amjad.Khan on November 23, 2011, 10:22 GMT

    For all those who says Afridi aint a legend. Check this out: In the 2003 Videocon Cup, in Amsterdam, Shahid Afridi before the start of the match claimed that Irfan Patan was no match for him and he would hit a 6 off the first ball. Shahid Afridi came with Yasir Hameed as the opening pair to the match, and Irfan Patan was the opening bowler. Yasir Hameed made 1 run and rotated the strike to Shahid Afridi, in which he smashed a 6 off Irfan Patan. The ball landed outside of the stadium and was lost in the nearby stream and a new ball had be brought in.... Check the Wikipedia...

  • AmjadZork on November 23, 2011, 10:09 GMT

    @Rajchamp - You want statistics, here it is: Pakistan & India played 59 Test matches between them (PAK won 12 : IND won 9) - Pakistan & India played 120 ODIs (PAK won 69 : IND won 47) - Pakistan & India played 2 T-20s ( PAK won 0 : IND won 2, both T-20 World Cups)... Who is better now...

  • dummy4fb on November 23, 2011, 9:03 GMT

    further to rajchamps comment about number of matches won by india against pakistan in all formats and the number of wins recorded. First of all he has all his stats mixed up. Dont want to get into an arguement regarding that.What I have to say is he should stop comparing the 2 sides as far as the pool of talent available is concerned. come on, India can raise 20 or 30 test, ODI and T20 sides if it could have been so allowed to do by ICC.Yet we carry on seeing the same players manning the fort.They should put an age limit for players who should represent the Indian team to allow the Rahanes and badrinaths etc to be able to show their worth.

  • birdz_eye on November 23, 2011, 8:55 GMT

    When did i say Pakistan batting is superb? Its not up to the mark just as incapable Indian bowling attack (witness the WI batting effort for current test as example). Regarding the talent sitting on Indian benches I don't know much about them but its good that we Pakistan fans will expect some challenge thrown at team Pakistan

  • dummy4fb on November 23, 2011, 7:26 GMT

    wake up rajchamp.Stop comparing the still bottle feeding varun to umer gul You can very well see dhoni's confidence or the lack of it in his pace bowlers right now on the first day of the 3rd test.He takes the new ball in the middle of the 84th over and come the 88th over and he has gone back to his spinners.India can only play spin and bowl spin.Like Shoiab Akhtar said in his book..."indian batsman are mostly scared stiff of playing genuine pace including sachin

  • El_Toro_Loco on November 23, 2011, 6:34 GMT

    @ raja champu (Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, S Badrinath, Ajinkya Rahane, Manoj Tiwary, C Pujara, Manish Pandey, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, R Ashwin, P Ojha) none of them is a match-winner, and they are school buys outside of their comfort zone i.e india....Caio

  • StarsnStumps on November 23, 2011, 6:07 GMT

    ok so some more numbers to support the match winner afridi ... against Aus afridi has played 33 matches AWAY from home and scored 40 or taken 2 wickets in 9 of such matches when pakistan have won (27%) not 2% nor 7% :) ... SA 7 out of 21 (33%) ... England 8 out of 17 (47%) ... not good enough? ok the great sachin's numbers are very similar (marginally worse in fact) 11 out of 35 (31%) for Aus, 8 out of 34 (24%) for (47%) .... and ok his next fifty may come next year but his next 5fer may come today

  • AmjadZork on November 23, 2011, 4:38 GMT

    @Raj Champ: u are saying '...Fact is that they have a very long way to go to be even thinking about competing with teams like India, Aus, SA, England.' --- How about this: '...Pakistan reaching to semis of 1999 & 2011 or winning T20 WC 2009 or in being semifinalits in three consecutive T20 WC's ' --- Have you forgot it was Pakistan that smashed AUS for the first time in the ODI's of the world cup after so many years when no one else could do it?

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