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Pak stumble, Afridi to the rescue

india Updated: Mar 04, 2011 01:58 IST
Amol Karhadkar
Amol Karhadkar
Hindustan Times
Shahid Afridi

On the eve of their must-win tie against Pakistan, a bunch of Canadian players dined late in the night. The reason: they were glued to the television sets when Ireland were proving that the associate member teams did deserve to be a part of the World Cup with a sensational victory against England.

No wonder then that on Thursday afternoon, Canada came out with a "let's do it" motto.

And at the halfway stage, it seemed as if Canada were well on their way to stunning Pakistan, who had emerged as the team to beat in Group A. After skitting out Pakistan for just 184 in 43 overs, all that Canada required was to bat out 50 overs against an attack that didn't feature Shoaib Akhtar.


BOWLING ARSENAL
That meant, to create an upset, Ashish Bagai and Co. had to first deal with Umar Gul and Abdul Razzaq's accurate pace bowling and then come good against Saeed Ajmal's off-spin; and the quick leg spinners of the Pakistan skipper and the bowler in form, Shahid Afridi.

The North Americans failed on all counts. Neither were they able to get off the blocks quickly nor could they manage to keep the scoreboard ticking.

AFRIDI MASTERY

When Rizwan Cheema, the only Canadian with an ability to take the game to the opposition, entered the crease after Zubin Surkari's struggle was ended by Ajmal, Canada required 81 to win off 99 balls.

But 24 of those balls had to be bowled by Afridi, the highest wicket-taker of the tournament. And he sealed the fate of the match in the first two overs of his second spell.

First, he fooled Cheema with a googly and in his next over, went through the defences of Jimmy Hansra and Harvir Baidwan off successive deliveries.

If Pakistan had lost their last five wickets off 29 balls to put themselves in a spot of bother, Afridi's four wickets in three overs ensured Canada lost five in 31 balls to settle the match. As if his wickets were not enough, he also produced a direct hit to run out tail-ender WD Balaji Rao.

Afridi, with his second five-for in three matches, could show off with arms spread, imitating Leonardo de Caprio's pose in the Titanic, on the field and again with the man of the match trophy for the third time in a row.http://www.hindustantimes.com/images/HTPopups/040311/04_03_11-metro-17f.jpg