HBL v SNGPL,Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final, Karachi January 9, 2008

'Afridi's wicket was special' - Asad



A successful day behind him, Asad Ali has put SNGPL on top against Habib Bank © Faras Ghani

Going up against the likes of Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi and Hasan Raza in your maiden domestic final is no bowler's dream. Younis has just come fresh off another successful international season, Raza is Habib Bank's (HBL) top-scorer of the season, fresh from a double hundred, and statistics don't really matter for Afridi.

The 19-year-old Asad Ali was given the challenge of containing this star-studded HBL batting line. Although Samiullah Khan, his senior bowling partner, captured two early wickets, including that of Younis, the pressure was on Asad to deliver the goods from the other end. He duly responded with three quick and key wickets, a spell that may just prove decisive in dictating the outcome of this final.

"I admit I did not bowl that well at the start of the innings," Asad told Cricinfo. "The first two or three overs were completely useless. But as I settled down, I enjoyed my spell.

"Before we took the field, the plan was to end the day with them [HBL] five or six down for under 100 runs on the board. Mohammad Hafeez [captain] advised us to stick to a good line and length and make them play. The onus was on the batsmen playing, whether they hit us for boundaries or we bowl a dot ball. We had to make them play."

All three of Asad's wickets came from this; Rafatullah Mohmand was caught-behind, Afridi bowled off an inside edge and Aftab Ahmed, beaten for pace, saw his middle stump uprooted. Unsurprisingly, the prized scalp of Afridi was the most cherished.

"A feeling that cannot be defined. He had just hit me for two boundaries and even though he was new to the crease, we all knew what he was capable of doing. We had a set plan for him. Hafeez provided me with a packed off-side field while Misbah-ul-Haq told me to make him play outside the off-stump. It worked wonderfully.

"That really got me charged up. I felt great dismissing an international batsman, and that too of Afridi's stature. Following that, I was all pumped up. I ran in faster, bowled faster and basically gave it my all from there till the end. It was only when Hafeez wanted me to take a break that I was forced to come off."

HBL need another 46 runs to save the follow-on, and even though Hasan Razan and Kamran Hussain appear well-set, early morning conditions have aided swing bowlers over the span of the final.

"The pitch still remains a sporting one. Even though the ball is slow coming on to the bat, it helps both batsmen and bowlers. The first hour will be crucial. Our plan is to get another two or three wickets by lunch. We will attack their batsmen right from the start.

"Ideally, that gives us a good chance of dismissing HBL second-time round and lifting the trophy."

Faras Ghani is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo

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