HomeSportsAsia Cup: India's top continues to rattle thanks to Shaheen Afridi

Asia Cup: India’s top continues to rattle thanks to Shaheen Afridi

On Saturday, the Pakistan pace spearhead delivered two spectacular deliveries to eliminate Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in the Asia Cup match at Pallekele.

The most difficult task is to repeat the mundane. This is not the case with Shaheen Shah Afridi. How many times has he done this to India? Pitch the ball to the middle stump. Keep taking it away from the right-hander until it bends the opposite way. We know hitters practice for these situations. But Afridi’s approaching delivery is so jarring. It’s likely to be his most defining recollection when he’s done with cricket. Not that India hasn’t tried. Should I shuffle across the stumps? Done. Playing late? That as well. Afridi is still sneaking in.

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Those two Afridi deliveries that wiped out Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul in the 2021 T20 World Cup were really fantastic. The swing was more noticeable in Dubai. Neither batter helped his reputation by losing balance in an attempt to offset the movement. However, they are the kinds of disasters that teach you a lesson and help you prepare. And you could see that in Sharma’s demeanour on Saturday in India’s first Asia Cup game in Pallekele. He was measured, displaying the entire face of the bat, attempting to be compact in every manner possible, all in order to complete Afridi’s maiden spell.

Eight balls later, Virat Kohli was out, but such was the one-way traffic that it didn’t feel like Afridi was delivering his next over. India hadn’t made a mark by the seventh over, even with Shubman Gill scratching around, so Kohli wasn’t incorrect to try to get the score moving. However, the shot selection was not the wisest, especially on a sticky ground where the ball tended to halt and come.

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Outside off, this was short of length, leading Kohli to open his bat and glide it down to third man for a single. But he wasn’t in the right position. Afridi’s delivery smacked against Kohli’s pad before slamming into his leg stump. India was 27/2 at the time, and Afridi was enjoying himself. Later, the broadcaster revealed that in ODIs since 2021, Sharma has averaged 22.8 against left-handers while Kohli has averaged 21.8.

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