Even though his international future may remain in considerable doubt, Pakistani all-rounder Shahid Afridi is eager to continue to prove himself in T20 leagues across the globe. Following a parsimonious spell in the previous match against Chittagong Vikings, the 36-year old raised the bar by playing a starring role in dismantling Khulna Titans in a group clash during the fourth edition of the Bangladesh Premier League at the Shere Bangla Stadium in Mirpur.
The leg-spinner helped Rangpur Riders dismiss Khulna Titans for a paltry 44 with his stifling line. On a viciously turning surface, Afridi operated at the right pace and picked up four wickets whilst conceding just 12 runs from a spell of three overs. Afridi was ably complemented by the left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny who delivered scarcely believable figures of 2.4-2-0-3.
Khulna’s performance turned out to be quite abysmal after coming into the match on the back of a thrilling victory against Rajshahi Kings yesterday. Their head coach Stuart Law, who played 54 ODIs as well as a Test match for Australia, watched in horror as only Shuvagata Hom managed to register a double-digit score.
Upon winning the toss, the Riders decided to take advantage of the turn on offer by opening the proceedings with off-spinner Sohag Gazi. He made a mark immediately by bowling wicket-keeper batsman Nicholas Pooran around his legs.
Afridi came into the attack in the fifth over and began to scythe through Khulna’s batting lineup. The experienced campaigner exploited the conditions quite smartly by maintaining a stump to stump line. Riki Wessels paid the price for attempting a dangerous cut against the rapid wrist-spinner. Discarded Bangladeshi all-rounder Alok Kapali followed suit in the very next delivery when a quicker one trapped him in front.
Ariful Haque kept out the hat-trick ball but the damage had already been done. When Shuvagata counter-attacked in a bid to take his team out of trouble, Afridi castled him with a fuller one. From 40/6, Khulna’s situation became much more worse after Sunny dealt a double blow in the ninth over. They were soon bundled out for a score which effectively ended any hope for a fight back.
Despite losing attacking opener Mohammad Shahzad during the third over, Rangpur cruised to a comfortable nine-wicket victory and shored their position at the top of the table. As expected, Afridi received the ‘Player of the Match’ award for his game-changing effort. His next assignment will be against Dhaka Dynamites on Saturday while Khulna have an opportunity to regroup from their woeful display when they play Chittagong Vikings next.
During the post-match presentation, a visibly delighted Afridi quipped, “I played (my) last game in August. After that, I played yesterday. I was excited to come back and play with the youngsters. I'm keeping things simple and trying to bowl as much as I can in line with the wickets. I love challenges, cricket is all about enjoyment. Bowlers have done a great job in both games. That's why, we are practicing tomorrow as our batsmen need some practice.”
Brief Scores: Khulna Titans – 44 from 10.4 overs (Shuvagata Hom 12, Afridi 4/12, Arafat Sunny 3/0); Rangpur Riders – 45/1 from 8 overs (Mohammad Mithun 15*, Soumya Sarkar 13*, Junaid Khan 1/14)
Result: Rangpur Riders won by 9 wickets with 72 balls remaining