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Feature

Shahid Afridi: I'm trying my level best not to disappoint my fans

Qalandars' icon player showed little signs of rust as he took 2 for 16 to set up a big win against Team Abu Dhabi.

Barny Read
31-Jan-2021
Shahid Afridi's 2 for 16 earned him the Man-of-the-Match award  •  Abu Dhabi Cricket

Shahid Afridi's 2 for 16 earned him the Man-of-the-Match award  •  Abu Dhabi Cricket

Day three of the Abu Dhabi T10 League saw its full quota of stars finally arrive in the UAE capital, with former Pakistan allrounder and Qalandars icon player Shahid Afridi the last man out of quarantine to star on Saturday night.
Afridi had been held up by an expired UAE residency visa which forced him to briefly return to Pakistan before re-entering the country. But just hours out of mandatory isolation, he had taken 2 for 16 as Qalandars reduced Team Abu Dhabi to 100 for 5 in the second match of the day.
That bowling display teed up the Qalandars batsmen to see their side home with nine wickets and nine balls to spare. Understandably, Afridi was pleased to be out of the makeshift gym of his hotel room and making his mark on the pitch.
"Quarantine wasn't bad because I was missing cricket but I tried to keep myself fit in the hotel room doing some different activities," he said. "The good thing is that I'm still enjoying my cricket and I'm still passionate about it and my fans, they want to see me playing cricket so because of my fans I love to play and love to continue for maybe one or two years."
Despite the short turnaround moving from quarantine to playing, Afridi didn't appear to have any rustiness to shake off with the ball. He said it is essential for him to stay razor sharp if he's to continue performing at the highest level.
"If you want to play cricket, you should be 100% and you should stay fit because cricket is full of skill. I'm trying my level best to not disappoint my fans."
Afridi's instant impact was in contrast to Team Abu Dhabi's own star man Chris Gayle, who followed up his 4 in the opening game with 5 this time around. It represents a sluggish start with the bat for Gayle but one his captain Luke Wright is certain will soon be addressed.
"It's only been two innings and you obviously have to have a good go at it early," Wright said after his team's second loss in as many days. "Hopefully he gets going in the comp, he obviously needs to start doing it soon but it's not just about Chris, we've got other players that can do it as well. Chris is obviously world class so fingers crossed he gets going and we get some wins because we need to."
Seeing both players in action will have been a fillip for the league where Shoaib Malik also played his first game of the tournament, although he neither bowled nor batted as his Maratha Arabians side were comprehensively dismissed in a six-wicket Bangla Tigers victory.
A thought must be spared for South Africa's Colin Ingram who patiently waited for almost a week in Dubai before being told he couldn't take part due to the local travel ban placed on his home country. However, the involvement of the likes of Gayle, Afridi and Malik are box office, and Wright is delighted with the quality of players on show, believing it raises the game of all the players in the tournament.
"It's great, isn't it? I think for everyone, they want to play with the best players and they're the best players that have probably ever played T20 so we're all very lucky that we get to learn from them," Wright said.
In the final game of day three, Northern Warriors captain Nicholas Pooran became the eighth of nine captains to be put into bat first, but the first to win setting a target. Pooran hit a brutal 54 from 21 balls before Rovman Powell (24*) and Fabian Allen (28*) between them contributed 52 runs from just 18 deliveries as the Warriors hit the highest total of the competition.
Their 137 for 3 was ultimately too great for Delhi Bulls, especially when Wayne Parnell (3 for 15) - their icon player who replaced Andre Russell at short notice ahead of the competition - took the third hat-trick in the T10 League's now four-season history.
"To even get wickets in T10 cricket is difficult, to get a hat-trick is fabulous," Pooran said of Parnell's contribution. "He's been working hard and planning a lot, so I'm really happy for him."