Shaheen Afridi announced himself as the bowler to look out for this tournament by putting India on the backfoot in a devastating opening spell. Going off the numbers, India would not be the only team he troubles with the new ball.
Making his ICC Men’s T20 World Cup debut, Afridi took just four deliveries to make his presence felt, trapping Rohit Sharma in front for a golden duck with a perfect in-swinger. It was so plumb that commentator Nasser Hussain gave it out before the umpire did.
In his next over, Afridi struck again, bowling KL Rahul with an unplayable delivery that snaked in off a good length to knock over the in-form opener for three.
He would later complete his set of India’s big three by removing Virat Kohli in the 19th over, showing his skills at the death. But it’s what he can do with the new ball that is especially noteworthy.
According to ESPNcricinfo, the seamer has taken a wicket in the first over a T20 innings 20 times across just 60 innings, with a grand sum of 21 first over wickets. Effectively, across his career, he takes a wicket in the first over almost once every three matches.
Of course, as Rahul found out, he’s not just dangerous in the first over of a T20.
According to CricViz, Afridi is the top Powerplay wicket-taker in T20s since the start of 2019, with his two early strikes against India taking him to an even 50.
India’s Deepak Chahar is the only other bowler with more than 45 wickets in the Powerplay in this period, and the Pakistani’s sub-20 strike rate is an anomaly among anyone with more than 35 wickets.
Off the back of Afridi’s early burst, Pakistan managed to keep India’s batters in check for the majority of the innings, paving the way for a 10-wicket victory.
He did bowl very well with the new ball,” India captain Kohli said after the match. “He hit the right areas to pick up wickets, and in T20 cricket you need good execution to pick up wickets with the new ball, and certainly he did that, so credit to him.
“He put our batsmen under pressure immediately with the new ball, and he ran in with intensity and showed that he’s bowling in consistent areas, so as batsmen you are forced to be a bit watchful. “That spell kind of put us on the back foot immediately, and from there on to get those extra 20, 25 runs in the end seemed pretty difficult when you lose three wickets for 20 runs.”
One suspects he will continue to put opponents on the back foot over the remainder of the tournament.
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