Afridi revels in licence to thrill crowd

Colourful all-rounder told to 'play his own game' as Pakistan edge South Africa

It is exactly 10 years to the day since Pakistan – and Shahid Afridi – last appeared in the showpiece Lord's final of a global cricket tournament. It all went horribly wrong for Pakistan and Afridi, then 19, in the 1999 World Cup final as Australia bowled them out for 132 and raced to a nine-wicket win.

One of Pakistan's most embarrassing days on the field finished very early, in front of a packed and disappointed crowd, as Australia completed the job with almost 30 of their 50 overs unused.

A decade on, Afridi wrote the latest chapter in a colourful career with a match-winning all-round performance in last night's World Twenty20 semi-final victory over perennial big-stage stooges South Africa.

A hugely instinctive and charismatic cricketer, it will be surprising if the events of Lord's 1999 are anywhere near the front of his mind as he prepares for Sunday's final.

Much more likely, Afridi will be reliving his 33-ball half-century and 2 for 16 with the ball at Trent Bridge that did so much to finish off the tournament favourites yesterday.

One of only two players in the current Pakistan squad who survive from that last Lord's appearance – in the absence of the ill Shoaib Akhtar – Afridi is bolstered by the benign presence of Younus Khan. Captain and apparent mentor, Younus is well aware he has a match-winner on his hands, and is determined to let Afridi do his own thing. "Younus always really supports me, and that's what I need from the captain. The coach [Intikhab Alam] is helping me as well," Afridi admitted. "I'm ready for the final."

Afridi began his innings against South Africa by crunching a big hit over mid-on for a one-bounce four, from the first delivery he could reach.

It is intriguing therefore to learn he is trying a more patient approach, in search of a lasting return to form after a fallow spell with bat – if not ball. "In the last couple of games, I've tried to really build my innings," Afridi said.

"But Younus told me before, 'Just go and play your own game – don't worry about anything. There is no pressure on you'. He said 'Just take your time. Every bowler is easy for you if you do that – take responsibility. You are my main player'."

He may appear pretty much the same Afridi – well-known and mostly loved. The man himself, though, believes he is doing things slightly differently. "In the last two-and-a-half or three years, I haven't performed that well with the bat," he admitted. "But the team need me to do it."

As for his captain, Younus clearly recognises the potential of an uninhibited talent – Afridi is far from the only one in Pakistan's team – and he will not suddenly start to over-complicate matters, just because they happen to have reached the final. "There is no planning for the final," he claims. "The planning is very simple – just go there and play your natural game.

"I still believe Twenty20 cricket is 'entertainment' cricket – and there is no South Africa, no Australia, no India in the final."

Indian batsman Virender Sehwag has undergone shoulder surgery and could be out for at least three months. The 30-year-old opener, who missed the Twenty20 World Cup, went under the knife in London last week for a shoulder tear and has begun rehabilitation.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence