Sixteen years ago, on this very day, Shahid Afridi registered the fastest One-Day International century ever - in just 37 balls, against Sri Lanka. It’s a record that stands till date. So brutal was the attack that 90 of his 102 runs came in just 17 scoring strokes! Karthik Parimal talks more about the memorable knock, on a day when the two teams meet, yet again, in the semi-finals of the ICC World T20.
It was the final match of the group stages of the KCA Centenary Trophy – a quadrangular tournament involving Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kenya and South Africa – and the winner was to meet South Africa in the finals two days later. Sri Lanka were the firm favourites, for the then World Champions could have qualified even if they managed to lose that game against Pakistan, but with a respectable margin.
Skipper Arjuna Ranatunga won the toss, and for a reason best known to him, put Pakistan in to bat on a dry Nairobi wicket. What followed next was a massacre from the wizardly willow of Shahid Afridi. Little did the Sri Lankans expect to be mauled in such a brutal manner, and the assault sent them crashing out of the tournament.
Afridi, aged 16 years and 217 days, looked too good for someone who was playing his first One-Day International (ODI) innings. He was in the side for the previous game against Kenya, but didn’t walk in to bat even after the fall of sixth wicket. Nevertheless, Pakistan chased down a modest total of 148, thereby cruising to victory by four wickets. Afridi, however, registered economical bowling figures of 10-0-32-0 in that match. In the next fixture against Sri Lanka though, on October 4, 1996, Afridi was promoted to the prestigious No.3 slot in order to up the ante. The score read 60 for one in 10.1 overs when he walked in to bat.
The party begins for Afridi
With just his second ball, Afridi muscled spinner Kumar Dharmasena for a six over mid-wicket. He showed absolutely no inhibitions of playing on the big stage, and went on to pummel two more sixes off the same bowler in his next over. By now, the jubilant looks on the faces of the Sri Lankan players, after managing to dismiss Saleem Elahi, was slowly but surely starting to vanish. The scoreboard, that read 94 for one in 13 overs, was now beginning to send shivers down the spine of the Sri Lankans. Afridi was now batting on 31.
Fastest 50, almost
Sanath Jayasuriya was considered to be the most destructive batsman a decade and a half ago. There would’ve been no surprise had he managed to score 28 runs in a single over. But this time he was at the receiving end. Afridi smashed the left-arm spinner for 28 runs in the 14th over - a record.
Roped in to stem the flow of runs, the first ball of Jayasuriya’s over was bludgeoned straight over his head for a massive six. Appalled, he tried to bowl the next delivery flatter and faster, but young Afridi swiftly got underneath the ball and sent it flying across the ropes in the same direction. Jayasuriya would have breathed a sigh of relief when the third ball cost just two runs, but the caning however resumed from the next delivery.
A full toss on the legs would have been a gift to Afridi at this stage, and Jayasuriya obliged, as the ball disappeared over the fence for the third time in that over. Afridi, who raced to a half-century at this point, raised his bat towards the pavilion to acknowledge his teammates. However, he had narrowly missed the chance of registering the fastest half-century ever, for it came in 18 balls. Ironically, it was Jayasuriya who was currently holding that record for scoring a 50 in just 17 balls. The next two deliveries too resulted in boundaries, and the 28-run over finally came to an end. The score now read 122 for one in 14 overs.
Fastest hundred, surely
The next five overs were brutal from Sri Lanka’s point of view. Afridi led an assault that would remain unparalleled for quite some time to come. The sight of ball sailing into the stands became commonplace, and none of the bowlers could regulate the flow of runs. The wizard that he is, even Muttiah Muralitharan looked helpless.
With an unadulterated technique, he clobbered his way through the bowling line-up. A sweep off Muralitharan’s delivery, on 98*, that sped to the fine leg boundary brought up Afridi’s century in just 37 balls – a record that remains unbeaten even today. Pakistan amassed 371 for nine in their 50 overs, and needed to restrict Sri Lanka below 300 in order to qualify for the final – which they eventually did. Skipper Saeed Anwar too scored a swashbuckling century, but the game will forever be remembered for Afridi’s heroics.
He hit eleven sixes in that game, equalling Sanath Jayasuriya’s record in ODIs. The scoring sequence of his final tally of 102 runs came thus: 0,6,1,0,4,0,0,6,0,0,6,6,1,1,6,6,2,6,4,4,0,0,6,6,1,4,1,1,0,4,1,6,0,6,0,2,4,1,0,0.
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)