Better late than never for Afridi

Shahid Afridi bats for Pakistan
Shahid Afridi bats for Pakistan

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At last. Shahid Afridi is set to make his Hampshire debut at Essex tonight.

The explosive all-rounder – nicknamed Boom Boom for his big-hitting – finally came through his legal wrangle with the Pakistan Cricket Board last week.

And after missing the first seven fixtures of the Friends Life t20, Afridi is now due to link up with his Royals team-mates.

It’s been a long road that dates back more than a year to see Afridi in Hampshire colours.

But manager Giles White is looking forward to welcoming him back after the false start ahead of the club’s first game.

White said: ‘We’ve had to be patient but it will be good to have Shahid with us.

‘When he was with us before, he had already brought a lot of energy to the group.

‘He’s fantastic in the field and he’s a very enthusiastic cricketer.

‘He loves the game and he really wants to play, which is great. He’s got wonderful skills as a bowler and he hits a long ball too.

‘He’s one of the best all-round cricketers and he fitted in very well.’

Afridi was due to fly in yesterday and, all being well, he will take his place in the side for tonight’s trip to Chelmsford.

But it seems nothing is ever definite when it comes to Hampshire and their overseas signings.

The former Pakistan skipper, however, admits he is relieved to have been cleared to play.

He said: ‘The last few weeks were pretty frustrating but thankfully it’s over now. I’m feeling relieved.

‘I’m really looking forward to be back in action and doing well for Hampshire.’

With Michael Lumb unavailable because of his England t20 commitments, White’s original plan to use Afridi in the middle order may be reconsidered.

While it would be just one straight change to an otherwise settled line-up, he at least provides the option of opening alongside Jimmy Adams.

White said: ‘When everyone is available, he would probably bat in the middle order somewhere but he has opened in the past. It is always a difficult selection because we’ve got a strong squad.

‘But we are in good form in this competition and we will go to Essex looking for another win.’

Lumb, who misses the game after his selection for the England squad to face Sri Lanka on Saturday, admits he has mixed feelings over his call-up.

He said: It’s nice to be back involved. It’s only for the one game but it’s nice to be back.

‘I wasn’t thinking about it too much so it was a bit of a shock but I’m over the moon.

‘It’s disappointing it’s only one game, though, and it’s more disappointing I am missing two games for Hampshire – especially a really big one at Chelmsford.’