Shahid Afridi hit sixes off successive deliveries as Multan Sultans meted out a hefty defeat to the defending champions Islamabad United in the Pakistan Super League.
He and Shoaib Malik, the other seasoned campaigner in the Sultans line up, succeeded where they had failed a day earlier, as they carried the competition’s newest franchise to a comfortable five-wicket win.
Their task was far easier than 24 hours previously, when they had succumbed in a high-scoring chase against Karachi Kings.
This time around, they were pursuing a paltry target of 126, thanks to the excellence of Afridi himself with the ball, and in particular youngster Ali Shafiq.
The 22-year-old seamer is at the opposite end of the spectrum to Afridi in terms of both age and celebrity. But he made a name for himself on PSL debut by taking 2-11 from his four overs, while Afridi took 2-18 with his leg-spin.
“I had a good coordination with the skipper [Malik] and I stuck to what he told me,” Shafiq said. “You need to mix your slower balls, and that’s the way I got rewards.”
The below-par score meant Multan need not panic despite losing wickets during their run chase on a testing Dubai track. Malik and Afridi were composed during their decisive stand as they won it with eight balls to spare.
“I was calm which comes with experience, and I knew that we have explosive batsmen at No 5, 6 and 7 who could hit big when needed, and that’s also why I was calm,” said Malik, who added an unbeaten 31 to his opening game half-century. “We bowled well and the credit goes to the bowlers.”
Dean Jones, the Islamabad coach, was visibly annoyed by the way his team performed, covering his face behind his red notebook while screaming in frustration when Afridi hit the first of the two sixes to win the game.
“We didn’t get enough runs on the board, we didn’t adapt to that pitch as quickly as we should have,” Jones said.
“Our batsmen were going very hard, and any mistake we made, they were picking up on it. We had to be better than that.
“It is T20 cricket unfortunately. You hear that as an excuse all the time, but we are better than that.”
The Australian coach defended Mohammed Sami, the veteran fast bowler who was a surprise appointment as captain of the champion side ahead of this season.
“Misbah [ul-Haq, Islamabad’s former captain] is a great player, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t understand why Pakistan cricket fans don’t think Sami is a good enough captain,” Jones said.
“I thought he was outstanding in his captaincy [given] he didn’t have much to deal with.
“We got 120-odd runs, and he got it pretty much to the last over. That is what you have got to do.”
A day earlier, Umar Akmal had fired a reminder of his merits with a sparkling 75 not out to take Quetta Gladiators to a win over Peshawar Zalmi.
The troubled batsman has been out of the Pakistan side for over two years, but Sarfraz Ahmed, the national team captain, suggested a recall is possible for his Quetta teammate.
“Everyone is watching the PSL so I hope these young players with exceptional talent will take this opportunity to showcase their talent and perform,” Sarfraz said after the six-wicket win.
“The selection committee and management will consider if any exceptional talent is spotted during the PSL who can be picked for the national team. So it’s up to these young players to work hard and break into the national team.
“We always welcome a talented player in Pakistan team. Umar is a talented player and he can always do well for his team. If he continues to play like this, I’m sure he will soon make a comeback.”