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A look back at some of Shahid Afridi's notable (and forgettable) comebacks in ODIs
July 18, 2013
Pakistan v Sri Lanka, Sharjah, 1999: 58 runs and two wickets
After a poor show in the 1999 World Cup - where he scored only 97 runs and took one wicket in eight matches, Shahid Afridi was dropped from the ODI squad that toured Canada to play West Indies in a three-match series. Afridi returned in the next series, Sharjah Cup 1999, and in his first match, against Sri Lanka, he put in a man-of-the-match performance, scoring 58 and taking two late-order wickets. However, as they say, one swallow does not make a summer, and Afridi's contributions failed to materialise as the tournament progressed.
Pakistan v India, Sharjah, 2000: golden duck and no wickets
Afridi made a second comeback in the space of six months in another Sharjah Cup match, this time against India on Pakistan Day. However his return did not prove fortuitous as he bagged a golden duck and then didn't impress in the next three matches. But Pakistan captain Moin Khan persisted with Afridi, and it ultimately paid off with a better than run-a-ball 52 which helped Pakistan clinch the title. This series was notable in that it marked the first time that Pakistan had beaten South Africa in five years, after losing 14 ODIs in a row.
Pakistan v England, Lahore, 2000: 61 runs and five wickets
Playing his first match after tying the knot, Afridi hammered 50 runs and then claimed a five-for, the first of his ODI career. While he missed the ICC Champions Trophy in Nairobi, Afridi was recalled for Pakistan's home ODI series. He missed the first match because of his wedding, but then came back in the second, scoring 61 to help Pakistan square the series.
Pakistan v India, Rawalpindi, 2004: 80 off 58 balls and two wickets
After the disastrous 2003 World Cup campaign in South Africa, the PCB did a complete overhaul of the team. Many players, including Shahid Afridi (who scored only 9 runs in three group matches), were left out. It would be a year before Afridi wooed the selectors, representing the longest period he has been out of the ODI team so far. He made his comeback in the second ODI of the famous 2004 home series against India, the first time the sides had resumed cricketing ties in five years. Afridi reminded everyone of his capabilities, with a swashbuckling knock of 80 off just 58 balls, which included 10 fours and four sixes. Pakistan ended up amassing 329, and were just able to stop a marauding Sachin Tendulkar, who struck 141 off 135 balls, to win the match by 12 runs.
Pakistan v India, Amstelveen, 2004: 19 runs and four wickets
After missing the Asia Cup, Afridi made his second comeback during the Videocon Cup in 2004, against India once again, in the unlikeliest of venues. Afridi duly announced his arrival with a second-ball six, a gigantic blow straight down the ground. However, the knock would end prematurely on 19, but he compensated for it with a four-wicket haul which helped bundle India for 127. Pakistan ended up winning the rain-affected match by 66 runs.
Pakistan v West Indies, Multan, 2006: One run and no wicket
After another poor tournament during the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy, Afridi was again ousted from the team. A match-winning first-class ton for Habib Bank during the subsequent Pakistan home series against West Indies meant he once again returned midway for the fourth ODI at Multan. However, this return proved largely forgettable as he scored only one run and didn't produce anything of note with the ball either.
Pakistan v Sri Lanka, Dubai, 2011: three wickets
Afridi enjoyed a lengthy run in the team from 2007 to 2011, a period which saw him become the ODI captain. But a row with former coach Waqar Younis following the West Indies tour in 2011 meant he was stripped of the captaincy by Ijaz Butt, the former PCB chairman. As a result, Afridi announced his 'conditional' retirement, stating he wouldn't play under the current cricket board. After Butt's tenure ended five months later, Afridi withdrew his conditional retirement and made a return to the ODI squad in the series against Sri Lanka in the UAE. In his first match, Afridi earned man-of-the-match honours, picking up three wickets. In the fourth match, he became the first player to score 50 and take a five-wicket haul in a match twice.
South Africa v Pakistan, Bloemfontein, 2013: 34 off 16 balls and no wicket
After an unimpressive 2012, when he aggregated 182 runs and 15 wickets in 16 ODIs, Afridi was released from the squad ahead of Pakistan's tour of India in December. But he was back for their next assignment against South Africa and he hit a 16-ball 34 in a mammoth chase in Bloemfontein, which Pakistan ultimately lost. Two games later, he hit 88 off 48 balls, which was marked with one of the biggest sixes you will ever see. But one constant throughout the series was his inability to strike with the ball. He ended up with the unwanted record of bowling the most number of balls (222) in a bilateral series without claiming a wicket.
West Indies v Pakistan, Providence, 2013: 76 runs and seven wickets
Shahid Afrid missed the 2013 Champions Trophy, only the second time in his 17-year career that he had missed an ICC event. However, Pakistan's dismal performance, where they went through the group stage without winning a game, meant the selectors had to once again reconsider the Afridi impact. As a result, he made his ninth ODI comeback in Providence, and conjured arguably his greatest one. Afridi featured first with the bat, scoring 76 off 55 balls after Pakistan were reeling at 47 for 5, and then returned to take 7 for 12, the best ODI figures recorded by a Pakistani bowler, to effectively end the contest.
Mazher Arshad is a freelance writer based in Pakistan. He tweets here.
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