Afridi just playing his 'natural game'
If not for a wet cricket ball, Test cricket might have witnessed a stunning first
Shahid Afridi's belligerence knocked the stuffing out of India
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If not for a wet cricket ball, Test cricket might have witnessed a stunning first. Shahid Afridi has admitted that he was trying his best to smack six sixes in an over, a feat never witnessed before in Test history, but the fact that the ball got wet turned into a disadvantage. Having bludgeoned Harbhajan Singh for four successive sixes, Afridi managed only three runs in the last two balls and couldn't join Garfield Sobers and Ravi Shastri in the elite list of batsmen who have managed 36 runs in an over in a first-class game.
"I thought the fifth ball will spin a bit, but it didn't because it had got wet after the fourth six," he said in the post-match press conference. "I didn't get hold of it and ended up getting a big leading edge." Afridi also fell short of the record for the most runs in a Test over, a feat accomplished by Brian Lara against Robin Peterson at Johannesburg in 2003-04, but said he was just thinking of playing his "natural game" and taking a "positive approach".
There was a perceptible change in his approach once he entered the nineties and Afridi admitted that missing out on a hundred two Tests back, against England Faisalabad, had played on his mind. "The field was spread out," he said, "and I just wanted to use my mind and reach the hundred. So I decided to push the singles and not give it away."
He also regretted being involved in Younis Khan's run-out, perilously close to his second successive double-hundred against India, but revealed the exact reason for the mishap. "Anil Kumble was bowling and he was in my way when the shot was played," he continued. "I didn't run because I couldn't see Younis. I would have sacrificed my wicket for him but it was too late before I realised."
Acknowledging the fantastic contribution made by Kamran Akmal, who broke Adam Gilchrist's record for the fastest hundred by a wicketkeeper in Tests, Afridi spoke about the advantage that he had batting with such a player. "Akmal's was an outstanding knock. He was also scoring very quick and that relieved the pressure on me. Within one year, he has become one of the main players in the Pakistan side."
He had his share of sympathy for the Indian bowlers, talking about the belter that the pitch turned out to be. "It was completely a batting track. Kumble wasn't getting much spin and he is a bowler who relies on a bit of help from the pitch. It was not a pitch for him. Kumble came to me after I had hit a four and said, 'Now where do I bowl to you?'. Harbhajan tried to bowl a bit slow but it didn't work."
Asked to compare this innings with his other knocks, Afridi termed the 141 against India at Chennai in 1999 as his favourite. "I was under a lot of pressure before that series," he said, "my place in the side wasn't confirmed but Wasim bhai backed me. That was definitely my best innings."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo