It’s love at first sight for Hampshire hero

Shahid Afridi. Picture: Dave Vokes / LMI Photography

Shahid Afridi. Picture: Dave Vokes / LMI Photography

Liam Dawson in action. Picture: Neil Marshall

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Shahid Afridi put on a masterclass for the Rose Bowl faithful and then declared: I love Hampshire.

The Pakistan all-rounder claimed career-best t20 figures of five for 20 as the home side defeated the Gloucestershire Gladiators by 16 runs in a rain-affected duel.

The victory powered the Royals back to a share of the lead in the Friends Life t20 south group table, firmly in contention for a spot in the knockout stages.

It was their sixth win in seven games and provided an instant pick-me-up after the defeat to Essex at Chelmsford on Thursday night.

And Afridi, who was making his home debut for Hampshire, proved he is quickly adjusting to life on the south coast.

‘I definitely enjoyed that,’ said the 31-year-old leg-spinner.

‘I’m very happy I helped Hampshire win. I always focus on matches like this as they can be easy for an opposition to win.

‘But when you perform like this and win, it can give you big confidence going forward.

‘I bowled at the right time and took some crucial wickets for the team, so I’m really happy with that.’

As he racked up the scalps, toppling his previous best of four for 11 against Holland in the 2009 World t20, he brought out his trademark celebration to the delight of the home fans.

‘It is very natural and people seem to like it,’ said Afridi.

‘Many bowlers have a sign after taking a wicket.

‘The Hampshire fans seemed to like it, so why not? I love Hampshire.’

While declaring his adoration for the club after just two matches may appear premature, there is no doubt he is warming to his role in Dominic Cork’s side.

And although he has made an explosive start to life with the Royals, the man nicknamed Boom Boom reckons there’s more to come.

‘I said after the Essex game that I am back playing cricket after a long time out,’ explained Afridi.

‘I am trying to get back to my best as quickly as possible because the club have a lot of faith in me.

‘So I am trying to perform in each and every game.

‘I know how important the games we have coming up are, too.

‘The ball was very wet last night so I just tried to bowl wicket to wicket.

‘It is not easy to hit the ball then.

‘I didn’t try to flight too many balls – I just tried to bowl wicket to wicket and it worked very well.

‘We lost in Essex because of some bad fielding and poor shot selection.

‘But we have to learn from those mistakes and, when you get to semi-finals and finals, make sure you don’t make the same ones again.’

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