Monday, November 21, 2011

The Boom Boom Show

Customary X-man celebration of Boom Boom

One can't be really sure about the origins of this oft-repeated phrase “Boom Boom” - perhaps it was the evergreen David Lloyd, renowned English commentator, to first use it – but whoever coined it, now this is by what we name our very own Shahid Khan Afridi, as Boom Boom Afridi. And Boom Boom he did in the 4th one day international against Sri Lanka to clinch the match as well as the series for Pakistan.

The moment one saw the flat packed-to-the-rafters stands, the evenly-grassed ground and floodlights to illuminate the entire field of play later in the night, it was nostalgic and so was Pakistan's performance today. If the viewing of Sharjah Cricket Stadium was a throwback of what this middle-of-desert ground has achieved since its first one-day (ironically the same played that played today) way back in 1984, then Pakistan was at their reminiscent best today. The only difference was that, the yester years saw the likes of Imran, Wasim and Waqar put the fear of speeding deaths into the hearts of the batsmen, today it was more of a slow death that took an eternity to reach the batsmen, only to find himself bamboozled by some wizardry of sorts. The man who led the pack in this spin-show was none other than the ever-flamboyant, ever-enigmatic, Shahid Khan Afridi.

In every sense we look at it, this was indeed a Shahid Khan Afridi match. But first a bit of a highlight to what went about in this 201st one-day match in Sharjah.

As we've mentioned, this was the 201st one-day international match in Sharjah, by far the most to be played anywhere in the world, and after more than eight-years of obscurity where the ground was fast turning into “moment in history” archive for cricket-lovers, it was almost perfect to have the same two teams to play today, that first played in Sharjah ever.

As usual, the toss was the key as it has always been in Sharjah and Pakistan were glad to have it in their favour. But they did little to justify the toss that descended on the right side for them. After the early loss of Imran Farhat to Dilhara Fernando, Sri Lankan bowlers went about making a mincemeat of a fragile looking batting lineup, that was found groping in the dark on a slow wicket. Pakistan kept losing wickets almost regularly to peg their run-rate and even their chances to survive the complete quota of 50 overs. On a slow, low and turning wicket, Pakistan was finding it difficult to score runs and were 71 for 5, that's when Afridi entered, but quickly it was 120 for 7 with more than 15 overs and a batting powerplay to be consumed. From the very outset, Afridi looked his busy self, looking for singles and doubles, though a rare sight but that's one repertoire that he has developed in his game over a period of time now. Not that he always likes to use that repertoire more often, but he did today and he made a difference of nearly 20 runs to the final score of 200, that Pakistan managed to get in their 49.3 overs. By the time Afridi was dismissed he had taken the score from a hopeless 120 for 7 to a consolating 181, and his personal score to 75 off just 65 balls laced with four fours' and three sixes. One can only wonder, if Shahid Afridi had stayed till the end, how much more would had Pakistan achieved.

He found things easy while batting than others

The Sri Lankan bowlers did a brilliant job of using the conditions well, especially the passage of play where their spinners, not big names but certainly big at heart, looked to flight and toss at the likes of Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi. The spinners bowled 20 overs, which yielded 4 wickets at a rate less than 5 runs per over, plus the run-out of Misbah. However, it was the fast bowlers who rose to the occasion of bowling in a must-win encounter and bowled tight lines with little breathing space for Pakistani batsmen. Dilhara Fernando, who had received a lot of pasting from the earlier in the series, was a different bowler altogether, hitting that corridor-of-uncertainty more often at pace, mixing it judiciously with his split-finger slower bowls and well-directed bouncers. And it showed, both in terms of wickets and runs he gave away against those wickets, ending up with figures of 10-3-26-3, making him the pick of the bowlers. As Dilshan said in the post-match conference “the bowlers had done their job, it was the batsmen job from there on”.

He wasn't wrong, as chasing a below par score shouldn't had been a trouble for such an experienced world-class batting line-up with the likes of Jayawardena and Sangakkara as their guiding forces. They may have been in a spot of bother at 53 for 3 down, but the stalwarts of Sri Lankan lineup – Jayawardena and Sangakkara – made sure they were always ahead of their opponent's game, or rather tried to make sure.

It all began from where it seems to always go wrong for Sri Lanka now – the batting powerplay. Jayawardena and Sangakkara looked fairly composed, as both of them reached a hard fought fifty as well as century partnership on a difficult track. However, the powerplays, or rather batting powerplays, came back to haunt the Sri Lanka as they lost Sangakkara to a peach of a leg-break from Afridi to evade a loose drive between his bat-and-pad. In the next over, Angelo Mathews was sent back packing for a duck by Sarfraz Ahmed who held onto a sharp catch down the legside, off Saeed Ajmal. The batting powerplay yielded 18 runs for Sri Lanka, but more importantly they lost two wickets there to peg them back. After that, it was one-way traffic for Pakistan as they looked to run away with the game, courtesy some brilliant bowling by Afridi, who hadn't completed his part in the match after a superb rearguard action earlier with the bat. In fact to put things into perspective of what Afridi did today is worth more praises, as he had slightly injured his left knee when he looked to slide to cut off the boundary. He clearly looked for a while out of sorts with his bowling, but more so because of the disconcerting pain as he seemed to have lost his zip and drift due to the injured knee.

Surprisingly he came roaring back into the match from figures of 21 runs off 5 overs, Shahid Afridi shaped a dramatic collapse of the Sri Lankans batting, ending with 9.2-0-35-5, fittingly took the last wicket to win the match as well as capping yet another Man of the match award. And while this was the 15th occasion when a player has scored a fifty or more and bag a five-fer in the same match, he wrote his names in the record books to be the only cricketer in one day history to have it done it twice now.

As for Sri Lanka, they went from a comfortably placed position of 155-3 to lose 7 wickets in no time as well as the series where Pakistan took an unassailable lead of 3-1 in this five-match one day series. At the conclusion of this series, Lankans now have a huge task in front of themselves and probably a few brave and difficult decisions to make on a number of issues.

Boom Boom Afridi sparked his magic in this match as he looked almost on the verge of making it big in this series, and today he did – for his team, for himself and his huge number of fans who just can't have enough this man. Well done Afridi! Well done Pakistan!

1 comment:

  1. Very nicely written Saif! hats off!! :P
    Fahad Rawala