Afridi quells Canada's challenge with another five-for

Pakistan beat Canada by 46 runs at Colombo

By Jamie Alter

Colombo: Mar 3, 2011

Not for the first time, Canada s batting fell apart after a spirited performance in the field. Not for the first time, Pakistan leapt back from the precipice in a tigerish manner, turning a situation of dire consequence into a melancholy scene of victory as only they are capable of doing. Not for the first time, it was Shahid Afridi who was the difference between victory and defeat.

Chasing 185, Canada imploded from 104 for three as Afridi turned in yet another match-winning spell of whippy leg-spin, leading from the front to seal Pakistan s third win in a row. Pakistan had themselves stumbled with the bat on a sluggish Premadasa surface, but as it turned out a total of 183 proved more than enough.

When Canada came out to reply to the Pakistan score they would have been buoyed by the fact that they restricted the opposition to just 184. Any joy, however, would have been extremely short-lived.

Pakistan s best chance at claiming a win was to attack the stumps and that s exactly what Umar Gul and Abdul Razzaq did. Gul was the first to strike when he speared one into Ravindu Gunasekera s middle stump and won a referral for lbw the ball kept low before thudding into the pads and repeatedly forced the batsmen to play.

Razzaq had an lbw verdict against Nitish Kumar turned down and so decided to rule out all other factors, instead changing his line to just outside off and nipping the ball back through the gate. Gul was the next to have an lbw decision reversed, as replays showed the ball would have missed Ashish Bagai s middle stump.

It was engrossing stuff. Pace, seam, cut, some bounce, a few edges, plenty of appealing. Razzaq repeatedly gunned for the lbw verdict during a stifling opening spell (7-2-16-1) while Gul dispelled doubts about his ability to control the new ball. Inside five overs, three referrals had been successful.

Immediately Afridi began mixing in flippers with quicker balls, attacking the batsmen and not offering any room to break free. He soon struck to remove Ashish Bagai, but from 44 for three, Canada were revived by the combination of Zubin Surkari and Jimmy Hansra, who for 16.2 overs stubbornly denied Pakistan.

There were further referrals and plenty of appealing as the pair nudged and nurdled, played and missed, cut and drove and ran hard.

Just when it seemed Pakistan were on a downward slope the fielding slackened, the throws missed the stumps, Afridi chastised his fielders a dramatic collapse ensued. After many negated appeals, it was Saeed Ajmal who opened the door for Pakistan by trapping Surkari lbw for 27 off 67 balls. Afridi knew he had an opportunity and immediately took the ball, and what followed was mesmerizing.

Putting the ball in the right places – just short of a length and firing in the googly, or pitching it a little fuller and wider, tempting the batsmen to cut, Afridi stunned Canada. Hansra, after a determined 43, was tempted into cutting one that skidded back in and had his stumps rearranged. Immediately Pakistan s fielders swarmed to their captain.

Afridi had scented blood. Rizwan Cheema was foxed by a slower one, Harvir Baidwan done in by a much faster and nastier delivery which cut back in, and wicket number five came as Tyson Gordon slogged up in the air. Not be left out after he d finished his quota, Afridi then nailed a direct hit to get the ninth wicket, and the last rites were administered soon after.

The afternoon, though, had been a struggle for Pakistan. Although there was little in the Canada attack in terms of genuine threat, Pakistan s top order under some cloud cover initially – struggled with the sluggish nature of the pitch and the middle order wasn t helped by some poor shot selection.

The departure of Mohammad Hafeez early, rapped on the pads by Henry Osinde, and Ahmed Shehzad meant that Younis Khan was called on early to stabilize, but he failed to get going after consecutive half-centuries. Baidwan s hustling manner kept Younis wary and it was thus that he nailed his man, with a fuller on that cut back in sharply.

Baidwan bowled a fine opening spell as he restricted the flow of runs, and snapped up two wickets as well. He was consistent with his line outside off, and surprised the batsmen with his zip and appreciable inward movement off the pitch.

Cheema and Balaji Rao, bowling military medium and left-arm spin respectively, carried on the good work as the ball lost its shine and the track showed signs of becoming slower and lower. The bowlers were also supported by some good fielding and one such good catch at backward point saw the end of Kamran Akmal.

Walking in at 67 for four, Umar Akmal was forced to curb his natural instincts and push and steer rather than dominate. He added 73 with Misbah-ul-Haq, scoring a good number of runs behind square with dabs and sweeps until his tussle with Rao ended in the bowler s favour.

From here, Pakistan imploded. Misbah was caught down the leg side and Pakistan contrived to lose their last four wickets for just three runs.

Thanks to Afridi, however, they were spared a major embarrassment. It was his evening all the way, and Afridi now stands as the tournament s leading wicket-taker.

Brief Scores: Pakistan 184 all out in 43 overs (Umar Akmal 48, Misbah-ul-Haq 37; Harvir Baidwan 3 for 25, Jimmy Hansra 2 for 23, Rizwan Cheema 2 for 33, Balaji Rao 2 for 50) bt Canada 138 all out in 42.5 overs (Jimmy Hansra 43, Zubin Surkari 27; Shahid Afridi 5 for 23) by 46 runs.

Man of the Match: Shahid Afridi

(Jamie Alter is a freelance cricket writer, having worked at ESPNcricinfo and All Sports Magazine.His first book, The History of World Cup Cricket, is out now)

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