“I practiced with Lala at Moin Khan Academy. I was working on my power-hitting technique and batting [with Shahid Afridi]”, Shaheen Afridi said while talking to Cricket Pakistan earlier this year. Well, Shaheen’s hard work during those practice sessions (batting) was quite visible in the Pakistan Super League.
The left-handed pacer who has already stamped his authority with the ball at the highest level is now slowly leaving a mark with his batting heroics too. He notched up a fifty against Peshawar Zalmi in PSL 2023, then took his side Lahore Qalandars to the final of the tournament after smashing a four and a six against the same opposition in the Eliminator match but what transpired in the finale against Multan Sultans was simply outstanding.
The Qalandars were in a spot of bother at 112/5 when Shaheen walked in. Interestingly, he had promoted himself ahead of someone like David Wiese who too has the ability to go all guns blazing.
Also Read | ‘Just Giving the Singles to Her and Watching It’: Smriti Mandhana Mesmerised Over Sophie’s ‘Devine’ Knock
While the Lahore side was in a crunch situation, they had a well-set Shafique at the other end who was keeping the scoreboard moving.
Shaheen who had walked in the middle at number seven didn’t really waste much time. On the first ball of the 16th over, he cleared his front leg, went down on his back knee and smoked the length ball from Usama Mir out of the park over long on. But the left-hander could only gather one run in the next two deliveries.
Wondering, what happened all of a sudden? Well, nothing really.
The “batter” Shaheen Afridi was warming up. He was charging himself up to face one of the tournament’s most successful bowlers, Ihsanullah. The two had come face-to-face in the 17th over and it took Shaheen just one ball to wreak havoc in the youngster.
Ihsanullah bowled a quick, back-of-the-length delivery to the left-handed batter who read it perfectly, gave himself some room and pulled it over deep backward square leg. The pacer quickly changed his bowling side to round the wicket but nothing really changed.
Shaheen had got his eye in. Ihsanullah bowled a widish, fuller delivery and the Lahore Qalandars skipper stretched out to get enough bat on it to get a boundary over extra cover.
Ihsanullah was totally on the back foot now. He was bowling quick but had no idea about his line and lengths and the kind of form that Shaheen was in, it was just a matter of making a connection between the bat and the ball.
He did exactly the same on the fourth legitimate delivery of the over.
Ihsanullah, this time went full and quick but bowled it in the slot to give Shaheen an opportunity to hammer it over long off.
Shaheen’s onslaught in this over resulted in Ihsanullah bowling wides and eventually giving away 24 runs in the over. Probably, that was all that Lahore needed to make a comeback after losing some wickets in quick succession earlier.
The Qalandars’ skipper didn’t stop as he took on the pacers head-on and added a couple of maximums and a four more in his tally to remain unbeaten at 44 off 15 and helped the side post 200/6 in 20 overs.
The interesting part of Shaheen’s batting wasn’t just his power hitting but the way he operated against the variations from the fast bowlers. The left-handed batter didn’t just swing his bat but watched the ball closely. He had answers to a 144kmph delivery as well as one bowled at 127kmph. Moreover, Shaheen didn’t try to show any innovations barring one in the final over when he went across the stumps and tried to scoop it over short fine leg.
The left-hander missed the ball and shared a laughter with his counterpart Mohammad Rizwan who sarcastically signalled him to not try these kind of strokes.
Shafique holds fort
Lahore Qalandars were looking steady at one stage before Fakhar Zaman’s wicket in the 12th over was followed by a mini collapse after Usama Mir scalped a couple in the same over to remove Sam Billings and Ahsan Bhatti on the trot in the 14th over.
In the very next over Lahore lost Sikandar Raza and were 5 for 112.
The Qalandars side needed someone to take the charge and go after the Multan bowlers and Shaheen did exactly the same. But they also needed someone to stick around and that onus was taken up by Shafique.
The two batters chipped in with a quick stand of 66 runs for the sixth wicket before Shafique was eventually out for 65 off 40.
Also Read | ‘MS Dhoni Would Eat Butter Chicken But Without The Chicken’: Robin Uthappa
His batting was divided into three stages. First, where Shafique got another chance after Kieron Pollard dropped him off his own bowling. The second was about holding the fort at one end and keeping the scoreboard ticking.
The third and final phase was about scoring runs at a brisk pace. It was around the 18th over when Shafique decided to fire all cylinders. He smashed a couple of boundaries off Abbas Afridi on the fourth and fifth delivery of the over before taking a single on the final one and retain the strike.
Shafique then started the penultimate over with a maximum and followed it with two more fours before eventually being caught by Rossouw at deep backward point.
Shaheen- The bowler does his bit!
Multan Sultans were off to a good start in the massive run chase. They had put 105 in just over 10 overs but Rashid Khan did the magic with ball. He removed Rilee Rossouw who had already scored a fifty to provide Lahore with a breakthrough and then followed it with another priced wicket of Rizwan (34 off 23).
Multan had two new batters, Kieron Pollard and David Wiese out in the middle and both of them began the rescue operation.
It was then when Shaheen brought himself into the attack. The left-arm pacer bowled a slower one, into the slot to Pollard who went for the big hit but miscued it and was caught by Fakhar Zaman at mid-wicket. Qalandars had the wicket they wanted.
Shaheen then came back in the 18th over with Tim David on strike. He bowled an off-cutter to David and the batter didn’t shy away from slogging it towards the widish long-on area. It would have gone over the rope but a valiant fielding effort from David Wiese made sure that he didn’t just prevent the maximum but also took a brilliant catch.
Courtesy, Wiese’s brilliance in the field, Shaheen had his second wicket but he was in no mood to stop. Khushdil Shah hit him for a boundary on the third and then rotated the strike on the fourth and it was Anwar Ali up against him.
Shaheen bowled a low full toss, outside the leg stump line and Anwar tried to negate it to the on side but couldn’t really get the bat down and was bowled through the legs. The left-arm pacer followed it with another wicket of Usama Mir who was caught by Haris Rauf for zero. Shaheen returned with figures of 4/51 in 4 overs.
Also Read | ‘We Must Realise How Much Clout BCCI With Its Financial Power Carries’: PCB Chief Najam Sethi
Thrilling final over!
Multan Sultans needed 13 off the final over and Zaman Khan had the ball in his hands. The Sultans could only manage to score three runs in the first three deliveries. But an overthrow at the non-striker’s end on the fourth one brought the equation down to 8 needed off 2.
Khushdil struck a boundary over extra cover on the penultimate ball and Multan now needed 4 off 1. Zaman bowled a perfect Yorker but somehow Khushdil managed to dig this through long-on in the gap and ran a couple but couldn’t really complete the third one. Multan Sultans eventually managed to put 199/8 and lost the final by 1 run.
Get the latest Cricket News here