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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Afridi-inspired Hants cruise to another t20 win

Shahid Afridi, above, takes his second wicket in his first over
THERE are not enough superlatives to describe Shahid Afridi’s first ten days with the Hampshire Royals.
World-class, unplayable, irrepressible… the thesaurus does not do the man justice at the moment.
With 13 wickets from his first 19 overs in a Hampshire shirt, Afridi is bowling on a different level to anyone else in the competition.
Another masterful bowling display from Hampshire’s star man helped ensure a seven-wicket win against Middlesex, extending Hampshire’s lead at the top of the Friends Life t20’s South Group to four points. Afridi’s presence ensured a bumper Uxbridge crowd of more than 2,000.
He took three for 16 on a balmy summer’s evening as Hampshire, after winning the toss, limited Middlesex to 121-9.
Imran Tahir, Hampshire’s other leg-spinner, was also outstanding, conceding only 14 runs from his four overs while also claiming a wicket with an athletic return catch.
Middlesex began brightly, ending their powerplay on 51-1. But they knew as well as anyone that their total was well below par for Uxbridge, where the wicket is good and the boundaries short.
Gloucestershire amassed a competition record 254-3 there last Sunday and Middlesex’s 121-9 was the lowest first-innings score in the tenTwenty20 matches played at Uxbridge since the shortest format began (beating Hampshire’s 134-7 in Twenty20’s inaugural season eight years ago).
The Royals have had a happier time of it at Uxbridge in recent years and a third t20 win in as many games there was never in doubt after Afridi and Tahir combined to dismantle the opposition once again.
Middlesex hit 61 from their first 40 deliveries before Dimi Mascarenhas (2-28) claimed his second wicket, 18-year-old Adam Rossington bowled for a 17-ball 25.
Scott Newman contributed a run-a-ball 24 but he had no idea against Afridi, playing and missing against the first three deliveries from the Pakistani, who only conceded a single from his first over.
Newman holed out to long over in Afridi’s next over before Neil Dexter was beaten all ends up and trapped lbw.
Tahir reduced Middlesex to 68-5 two balls later and Ryan McLaren was brilliantly run out by James Vince from long on at the end of the next over.
Afridi’s figures read 2-0-3-2 when Cork decided to save his strike bowler’s last two overs. His absence from the attack allowed Sam Robson to restore some respectability to the Middlesex innings, dominating a seventh-wicket stand of 28 before Tom Smith had his leg stump knocked back trying to reverse-sweep Afridi.
Hampshire chased down their target with 18 balls to spare, giving them a little more time to get their togs ready for James Tomlinson’s wedding today but not enough to catch the end of Murray v Nadal, another annihilation. Jimmy Adams led Hampshire home with an unbeaten 38 (50 balls), while Sean Ervine raced to an unbeaten 22 from 14 balls to secure another two points.
But it was a scintillating 39 from Vince that ensured Hampshire reached the M25 earlier than scheduled.
Vince faced only 22 balls and hit Hampshire’s two sixes, sliced over point against England’s Steve Finn and over long-on against slow left-armer Smith.
He was eventually caught at mid-on, the first of two wickets for Steven Crook (2-17), who had Neil McKenzie brilliantly caught in the deep by Smith in his next over.
But those scalps were a negligible impediment to Hampshire’s inexorable progress to a home quarter-final.
For now, they can now enjoy a well deserved few days off before welcoming Essex to theRose Bowl on Wednesday, a repeat of last season’s semi-final.
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