Nothing is more daunting than bowling against a rampant Shahid Afridi. On his day, he leaves the best of the bowling line-ups in shreds. The hard-hitting Afridi was having an extraordinary outing against Karachi Kings at Sharjah during one of the group stage contests in the second edition of the Pakistan Super League. The veteran allrounder was muscling everything to the boundary, but more importantly, anchoring a subliminal chase.
Usama Mir was watching the ball sail over the fence as his teammates darted deliveries in search of a breakthrough. He had bowled three overs, leaking 20 without bagging a wicket, before Afridi had made his way to the middle during the 12th over. Lesser he had known at the time that he will be defending 18 runs in the last over with the blazing Afridi on strike.
The moment came! Kumar Sangakkara, Karachi Kings’ captain, entrusted Mir to bowl the final over when Afridi was going strong at 46 from 24 balls - with already having struck four 6s and three 4s.
Mir, who was just one when Afridi made his Pakistan debut in 1996, targeted the leg-stump with his stock leg-spin delivery. Two runs came of that delivery thanks to Chris Gayle’s lukewarm effort at short fine-leg. Afridi failed to connect the next delivery. With 16 needed off the last four balls, Mir decided to hurl the ball at the stumps, and Afridi, with all his power, hoicked it for a maximum. All of a sudden, Peshawar Zalmi were back in the game. The 176-run chase, that had seemed impossible, for the most part of the second half of the match, was on the cards.
“I was sure right from the beginning of the over that I will execute the plan,” Mir told Cricingif in an exclusive interview. “When the first two balls went dot, Shahid bhai scrambled towards the leg-stump and showed me his stumps which made me bowl the straighter-one. After the six, everyone came to me and backed me up to bowl regular leg-spin. I tried to bowl my best delivery which gave me the success.”
Karachi Kings' captain Kumar Sangakkara talks to Mir. - PCB
Mir retreated to his stock leg-spin. Amidst loud roars Afridi, attempting another hoick, skied the leggie. Gayle, holding his nerve, took an easy catch and Kings were back in the contest. Hasan Ali, who had observed the previous four balls from the non-strikers’ end, edged himself into Ravi Bopara’s hands at the long-off as Zalmi lost by nine runs.
“I was nervous definitely but it minimized when Sanga [Kumar Sangakkara], Shoaib Malik, Chris [Gayle], [Kieron] Pollard, and Ravi [Bopara] gave me the confidence,” Mir said. “When I was given the over, I felt the nervousness. But as soon as I started the run-up, it was gone.
“I had told myself to not to think that Shahid Afridi is facing me. I have to take it as an ordinary competition between a batsman and a bowler. It was just about delivering the best and that I did.”