Atiq Ur Rehman/Gulf NewsDubai: Shahid Afridi may be turning 39 on March 1, but the former Pakistan all-rounder displayed why he is still the hero of the fans. He bowled, fielded and even batted brilliantly under pressure to help Multan Sultans stop defending champions Islamabad United in the fourth match of the Pakistan Super League at the Dubai International Stadium on Saturday.
Afridi was involved in three dismissals (two for 18) and one catch in restricting the mighty Islamabad to 125 for seven along with Ali Shafiq, who also took two wickets for 11. When Multan wanted 25 runs from the last 21 balls, Afridi hit a six and a boundary off successive balls to finish the match with eight balls to spare and remained unbeaten on 16 along with his skipper Shoaib Malek (31 not out).
Islamabad opener Luke Ronchi launched the attack from the very first over by hitting Chris Green for two successive sixes over mid-wicket and deep square leg, respectively.
In the third over, opener Rizwan Hussain fell to Mohammad Irfan for just four runs by hitting into the hands of Laurie Evans at short cover. Two overs later, Cameron Delport, going for a pull, got caught by Irfan at short fine leg for a duck.
Veteran Afridi plotted the next three dismissals. He removed the dangerous Ronchi, who went for a slog sweep and got caught by Junaid Khan at deep square leg for 51. Afridi then pulled off a brilliant tumbling catch at mid-wicket to dismiss Hussain Talat off Junaid Khan for 7, before bowling Philip Salt, who went for a paddle sweep and missed.
With half the side back in the pavilion for 71 in 10.2 overs, Islamabad slipped into further trouble when Junaid Khan had Asif Ali brilliantly caught by wicketkeeper Johnson Charles for two. Islamabad would have lost their seventh wicket on 79 had Afridi not dropped an easy return catch by Samit Patel.
Chasing the target, Multan lost an early wicket when left-arm pacer Waqas Maqsood, in the second over, had Charles caught behind by Ronchi for a duck. Opener Shan Masood and Laurie Evans added 37 runs in 6.1 overs when Masood got run out off a direct hit by Shadab Khan for 26. Evans too quickly followed hitting Shadab to Asif Ali at long on for 15. This brought in Malek and Hammad Azam together and at the halfway mark, Multan were 48 for three — needing another 78 runs in the last 10 overs. Shadab trapped Azam leg before for 14, and Andre Russell joined Malek.
In the last five overs, Multan needed 49 runs. Russell hit Maqsood for two consecutive boundaries and he also lifted him for a huge six over long on. When 25 runs were needed off 21 balls, skipper Mohammad Sami removed dangerman Russell for 16.
Afridi joined his skipper Malek with the match heading towards a tense finish with 14 runs needed off 12 balls. Afridi lifted Maqsood over the covers for a six and also pulled him for a boundary to usher in the victory.