Pakistan were up against the formidable world champions Sri Lanka in the Centenary Tournament being held in Kenya in 1996. The stakes were high as the two sides were battling it out for a spot in the final.
The score was 60-1 and Pakistan’s Saleem Elahi was making his way back to the crease. Fans were expecting Rameez Raja to come out to bat, but instead, out came an unknown teenager who had made his debut in Pakistan’s previous match against Kenya. Fans were surprised and quite apprehensive about the decision made by the Pakistan camp to send this teenager out to the crease in a do or die fixture.
As the youngster walked out to bat, fans looked at each other and there were a few who were wondering who he was. 1 hour and 126 runs later, his name was on the lips of every single fan in the stadium. “Afridi, Afridi,” the crowd chanted as he walked back to the pavilion after being dismissed by Sajeewa De Silva.
Usually, when a player bats for about an hour, he manages to score about 20 or 30 runs. But, not Afridi. He introduced himself in the most swashbuckling way possible.
The 16-year-old had just smashed a century in 37 deliveries, which included 6 fours and 11 sixes. By doing so, he smashed numerous records and made a mark for himself on the international stage. He had just scored the fastest individual century in the history of the sport – a record which lasted for 18 years until it was broken by Corey Anderson and AB De Villiers.
Saeed Anwar, who was Afridi’s partner at the other end was happy to play second fiddle and give the strike to Afridi. The duo built a partnership of 126 out of which Afridi scored 102.
Sri Lanka had no idea what had hit them. All they could do is stand in their positions and watch in awe as the ball sailed over the ropes time and again. The massacre did not last long, but the damage done in that short period of time was more than enough.
Afridi was dismissed with the score being at 186. From there on, Anwar continued to take the attack to the Sri Lankan bowlers and scored a magnificent century. The middle order did not have much to contribute as Rameez, Moin Khan and Ijaz Ahmed were dismissed without troubling the scorers too much. It really did not matter as Afridi had already done the damage with his scintillating knock. Pakistan managed to score 371 in their allotted 50 overs which was the 2nd highest total in an ODI back then.
The Sri Lankan batsmen gave it their all but were long undone by Afridi’s magic. Aravinda De Silva’s century went in vain as Pakistan managed an 82 run victory over the World Champions. As expected, Afridi was adjudged man of the match for his record-breaking innings with the bat and good show with the ball as well.
Since that innings, Afridi has been an integral part of the Pakistan set up and established himself as one of the best all-rounders of the game. He also garnered the nickname “Boom Boom” due to his batting style. Currently, he is one the verge of retirement from international cricket.