ILT20: Alex Hales glad to join forces with ‘world’s best new-ball bowler’ Shaheen Afridi

English opener says Desert Vipers’ signing of Pakistan fast bowler is ‘as good as it gets’

Desert Vipers' Alex Hales can't wait to play alongside Shaheen Afridi in the upcoming second edition of the ILT20. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Alex Hales has called Shaheen Afridi the best new-ball bowler in the world ahead of joining up with him at the Desert Vipers in the DP World International League T20.

Shaheen, who is preparing to begin Pakistan’s Asia Cup campaign when they face Nepal in Multan on Wednesday, has signed a three-year deal with the Vipers.

He is part of a trio of Pakistani players confirmed to have signed for the franchise in recent weeks, along with Shadab Khan and Azam Khan.

Their arrival will bolster a side who were the losing finalists in the opening season of the new UAE franchise league earlier this year.

Hales has plenty of experience of playing with and against Shaheen. They were teammates at Nottinghamshire in the T20 Blast in the UK this summer, a few months after Shaheen had bowled Hales cheaply in the final of the T20 World Cup in Melbourne.

“You could put the case forward that he is the best seam bowler in the world – certainly the best new-ball bowler,” Hales said of Shaheen.

“He swings it, at extreme pace, from a 6ft 6in frame, and left arm round the wicket is a right-hander’s nightmare.

“I am just lucky he is on our team this year. I have had some good jousts with him over the years in the PSL and international cricket.

“He is one of the finest operators so I think that is an unbelievable recruit from us, especially with the swinging conditions, which will help in the UAE. I think that [signing] is as good as it gets.”

Hales became the first centurion in the ILT20 during the Vipers’ march to the final.

In the time since the completion of the competition, he has announced his retirement from international cricket.

“It’s a decision I am comfortable with,” Hales said.

“I have known deep down for a while that this is where I am at. I am proud to have played that many games for my country, hugely proud.

“Without the luxury of a central contract from England, it becomes so difficult to weigh all the bilateral series with the franchise stuff, and it becomes tough financially.

“It is a strange thing missing a bilateral series to go and play in a franchise thing. It didn’t sit very well with me, so I made the decision just to step away from international cricket. With my last game being a World Cup final, it’s as good as it gets.”

Shaheen Afridi of Pakistan celebrates after taking the wicket of Alex Hales of England during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup final. Getty
Updated: August 29, 2023, 8:33 AM