Shahid Afridi had 'point to prove'
Shahid Afridi has said that he had a "point to prove" after his match-winning performance in Sharjah helped Pakistan secure the one-day series against Sri Lanka 3-1 with a game in hand. Afridi scored 75 before taking 5 for 35, becoming the only cricketer to score a half-century and take five wickets in two ODIs, leading Pakistan to a 26-run win in a low-scoring contest.
"I had a point to prove and actions speak louder than words," said Afridi, who had come out of conditional retirement before the limited-overs series against Sri Lanka. "There were a lot of challenges and there were a lot things that I had to prove wrong [about me].
"I know there is a lot of expectation from me and I too understand how my batting could help the team. I am doing exactly according to the demand, as I made my comeback with an aim and goal. Now I want to play cricket and nothing else, and focus on my game."
Afridi began his innings with Pakistan in disarray at 71 for 5 in the 24th over. While wickets continued to fall at the other end, he batted with authority and control, scoring 75 off 65 balls to drive his team to 200, a defendable target on a slow pitch.
"I was expected to take singles, instead of sixes," Afridi said. "I am feeling great to have such a great performance, which helped Pakistan win. Earlier, when I was batting, I got the message from Misbah [ul-Haq] to bat for the whole (50) overs. I tried my best at my end with Saeed Ajmal, who did a great job."
Sri Lanka, however, were cruising towards the target, having reached 155 for 3 in the 38th over with Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene batting fluently. Afridi began Pakistan's fightback by bowling Sangakkara for 58.
"When Sri Lanka were in a winning position, the captain [Misbah] said we needed just one wicket, and I was lucky that I got Sangakkara out," Afridi said. "Then we were able to change the situation."
Afridi dismissed Jayawardene as well, for 55, and ripped through the lower order to complete a five-wicket haul. When Thisara Perera skied the ball and was caught by Umar Akmal in the 46th over, Sri Lanka had lost seven wickets for 19 runs to be dismissed for 174. Misbah's leadership, Afridi said, was ideal.
"The way Misbah is leading, it's great and the management is very good," he said. "I want seniors to take more responsibility [though], because I don't want youngsters to be told in every meeting that they must improve. So I want to set some examples for the new players."
Misbah gave Afridi his due but also praised his players for a team effort. "The main thing is the collective effort," he said. "Every individual is performing in different matches and a collective effort is seen. Every player is playing his role."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent