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Shaheen Flies High For Pakistan in Must-Win New Zealand Clash

BIRMINGHAM: Expectations were high when Shaheen Shah Afridi burst on to the international scene as a highly capable left-arm pacer last year.

Despite his lack of international experience, the 19-year-old was drafted into Pakistan’s 15-man squad for the World Cup, with the national selectors hoping that he would add sting to the team’s bowling attack.

But Afridi had such a slow start to the World Cup that even Misbah-ul-Haq, the soft-spoken former Pakistan captain, was forced to question his selection along with Mohammad Hasnain’s, another teenage pacer in the Pakistani squad.

“Afridi was struggling even in the last series [against England]. He was not putting the ball in the right areas,” Misbah was quoted as saying a day before the match against New Zealand.

Despite his below-par showing in the 4-0 drubbing in the five-match ODI series against England, Afridi was retained in the World Cup squad.

He made his World Cup debut against Australia but failed to exploit pace-friendly conditions at the county ground in Taunton on June 12. Afridi gave away 70 runs as Australia beat Pakistan by 41 runs. He bowled a series of loose deliveries with the new ball even as Mohammad Amir sizzled from the other end.

“Against Australia, where the conditions were very good, he (Afridi) was the one who actually gave a start to Australia. He was short, full at times, and did not hit that [right] length,” he added.

But there were no shortcomings here at Edgbaston on Wednesday as Afridi hit the right areas to bring New Zealand to their knees in a marathon seven-over spell.

Amir gave Pakistan an early breakthrough when he scalped opener Martin Guptill off his very first delivery but it was Afridi, who put Pakistan in command with impressive figures of 7-3-11-3 in his first spell.

His three wickets — Colin Munro, Ross Taylor and Tom Latham — came in quick succession and brought New Zealand to their knees at 46-4

Afridi, who was dropped for the game against India before returning to take 1-54 from 8 overs in a 49-run win against South Africa, was in top gear against New Zealand.

Making full use of overcast conditions and a dampish wicket, the lanky pacer hit the right lengths to put the Black Caps under pressure. He had Munro caught in the slips by Haris Sohail and had Taylor and Latham caught behind by Sarfraz. With Afridi on fire, New Zealand lost three wickets in a span of 22 runs.

However, New Zealand recovered from 83-5 to post 237-6 with the help of a superb sixth-wicket partnership between Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme. The duo added 132 from 130 balls. Neesham was unbeaten on 97 from 112 balls while De Grandhomme made 64 from 71 balls.

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