White: Afridi is worth waiting for

Shahid Afridi  Picture: Oliver Zee

Shahid Afridi Picture: Oliver Zee

James Vince. Picture: Neil Marshall

Centurion Vince warns Hampshire to keep hammer down

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Hampshire’s patience for the return of Shahid Afridi will be stretched to the limit after he was delayed by visa complications.

The superstar all-rounder was due to be back from his international commitments with Pakistan in time for tonight’s Friends Life t20 clash with Kent at the Ageas Bowl (7pm).

While he is undeniably talented and will add something to the Royals side, those who voiced concerns over his availablility are looking increasingly accurate.

A date is still to be set for his return ahead of tonight’s game and Sunday’s trip to Canterbury for the reverse fixture.

A club statement read: ‘Shahid Afridi has had his arrival delayed due to changes to the visa licensing regulations.

‘He is, therefore, unavailable for these two matches but is hoped to be available shortly afterwards.’

Afridi missed seven of Hampshire’s 17 matches in the competition last year but a family bereavement was a factor for his absence.

It now looks more likely that Wednesday’s trip to Richmond to play Middlesex will be his next chance to appear.

Although, with four games already completed out of this year’s reduced 10 by that point, it is starting to become questionable as to whether it’s worth having Afridi at all.

Manager Giles White remains hopeful he can bring the big-hitting batsman and world-class spinner into the side as early as possible.

White said: ‘We will miss Shahid Afridi. Every side in the world would be a better side with Shahid in it – there’s no question about that.

‘We’ve got visa issues so we will wait for him to travel back to Pakistan to get the visa and hope that he arrives sooner rather than later.’

Hampshire are not alone in suffering problems with an overseas t20 recruit this year.

Worcestershire went through similar pain with Sohail Tanvir, while Chris Gayle informed Somerset he would not be linking up with them at late notice, despite signing a contract to play.

Sri Lanka bowler Lasith Malinga also pulled out of a deal with Middlesex amid injury concerns and many counties have had to find replacements at short notice.

Hampshire, however, will be more concerned at their losing start to the new campaign as they went down by six wickets to Middlesex on Monday.

White said: ‘We’ve learned that things can go either way and the margins are pretty fine in t20 cricket.

‘We’re well aware of that over the years. We’ve played a lot of t20 cricket and it’s only one game so we look ahead.

‘We lost a few more wickets early on than we would have liked but we still managed to post a decent score, thanks to James Vince who I thought batted superbly.’

While it was a disappointing start for the Royals, White remains confident there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way in a highly-competitive group.

He said: ‘I think it will be tight with all of the sides beating each other.

‘I don’t see there being a runaway team so we will be fighting all the way.

‘We’re going to lose a couple but as long as you pick it up and get a few results ourselves, it’ll be close.

‘Kent are a good all-round side. Most sides that we come up against in this group are strong.

‘But it’s down to how you perform on the evening.

‘It would be good to get a result first up and then go to Kent a couple of days later, hopefully with one in the bag.

‘But I’m sure they are thinking the same thing.’

Meanwhile, Hampshire’s Friends Life t20 trip to Surrey has been rearranged for Monday July 2.

The orginal game was postponed after the recent tragic death of Surrey batsman Tom Maynard.

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