Afridi’s bowling propelled Pakistan in World Cup 2011
ICC EXCLUSIVE: Greatest World Cup Moments
Pakistan headed into the 2011 World Cup without the most ideal of preparations, with Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and even Afridi raising concerns. Afridi’s captaincy itself had come under question.
Yet, underlining the unpredictability of Pakistan cricket, the team did better than expected, putting behind it several crises of 2010, to become a force to reckon with in the tournament. Its dominance in the group stage gave the side confidence and birthed the dream of lifting the trophy.
Afridi’s 5 for 16 in Pakistan’s tournament opener against Kenya led it to a massive 205-run victory. That was not only Afridi’s first five-wicket haul of the tournament, but also the best figures for a Pakistan bowler in World Cups.
“The way we practiced, we were very focused and positive and what we do there, we deliver in the games as well. Definitely it emphases that we are a dangerous team. It’s a good start but we shouldn’t be 100% satisfied because there is a lot of work ahead of us still.”
Shahid Afridi, after the tournament opener against Kenya where he returned 5 for 16.
It would also be a stepping stone to something bigger. In Pakistan’s second game against Sri Lanka, Afridi picked up a four-wicket haul – en route to his 300th ODI wicket. Coming at crucial junctures, the wickets ensured Pakistan scraped through to a 11-run win and gave him his first Man of the Match award of the season.
But Afridi wasn’t finished yet. After nine wickets in two games, in his third, he notched up his second five-wicket haul against Canada, thus becoming the first player in World Cup history to take four or more wickets in three consecutive games.
“I have been continuously talking to Afridi and that is what makes me feel so close to the team. Afridi looks keen and even the boys are eager to perform.”
He picked up one wicket each in the remaining three group stage games, helping Pakistan finish at the top of Group A, followed by Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand.
His “lean streak”, if you could call it that, came to end when it mattered the most. He delivered another four-wicket haul in the quarter-final against the West Indies to hand Pakistan a semi-final berth, where it would face India and have a crack at the final.
What happened next
Although Afridi had a lean season with the bat, his performance with the ball played a large part in carrying Pakistan through to the semi-final. However, in the clash against India, he went wicket-less and scored 19 runs as the eventual champions beat Pakistan by 29 runs.
Afridi, with his 21 wickets, jointly topped the bowling charts with India’s Zaheer Khan, but it was Afridi’s average of 12.85 that saw him on top, and with an economy rate of 3.62 to boot – the least among the top ten bowlers of the World Cup.