Shahid Afridi was the hero again as Hampshire Royals pulled off a sensational 35-run t20 victory against rivals Sussex Sharks at the Rose Bowl.
With figures of three for 10, the Pakistani all-rounder – who starred in the 16-run win over Gloucestershire – sparked a sensational collapse from the visitors which saw them fall from an encouraging 51 for one to 91 all out, with 13 balls remaining.
And the leg-spinner also impressed with the bat, living up to his Boom Boom nickname with a 17-ball 29 after opening the Hampshire batting alongside Michael Lumb.
The win stretches the Royals’ t20 unbeaten streak at the Rose Bowl to eight matches and puts them two points ahead at the top of South Group, with six games remaining.
But the early signs suggested a second group defeat could well have been on the cards after a bright start from the home side ended in a below-par total of 126 for eight from their 20 overs with the bat.
The untried opening partnership of Lumb (15) and the promoted Afridi did their job well, smashing three sixes between them as the Royals quickly moved into the ascendancy.
But clever bowling from Sussex’s high-class attack of Umar Gul (two for 24), Monty Panesar (two for 24) and Naved-ul-Hasan (two for 19) restricted Dominic Cork’s men to just 73 runs from their last 15 overs.
In reply, Chris Nash and Luke Wright got the Sharks off a flyer as they looked certain to knock off their target with overs to spare.
However, Afridi removed three of Sussex’s top-order – including the dangerous-looking Wright – before superb bowling from Imran Tahir (three for 13) helped turn the match on its head and secure an unlikely triumph for the Royals.