Hampshire manager Giles White hailed the impact of Shahid Afridi after he inspired Hampshire to a 35-run victory over Sussex Sharks in the Friends Life t20.
The Pakistani all-rounder came to the Royals’ rescue as the visitors looked set to close in on a below-par Rose Bowl total of 126 for eight set by the home side.
After hitting 29 off 17 balls as he opened the Royals’ innings with Michael Lumb, Afridi combined with Imran Tahir (three for 13) to take six wickets for only 23 runs and apply the brakes to the visitors’ run rate.
His timely intervention of three wickets for 10 runs followed quick on the heels of career-best figures of five for 20 against Gloucestershire on Friday night.
And it left White, whose side returned to the top of South Group, in no doubt of the quality the former Pakistan Test captain has – both with the bat and the ball.
‘They (Sussex) started off well with the bat and I thought it might not be our night,’ admitted White.
‘They chipped it between a few fielders, we were just missing run outs so I thought it might not be our night, but it turned – Afridi turned it again.
‘It’s wonderful. He’s a great character to have around, a wonderful cricketer so we’re very lucky to have him here.
‘I think it’s just a case of going out and expressing yourself.
‘Afridi’s obviously a great striker of a cricket ball, too.
‘If he gets out early, he gets out early and we go back to the formula that we’ve had – Jimmy Adams playing at three, comes in and plays as normal.
‘On this wicket, we felt that new ball runs were key, as we thought it might be difficult in the middle and obviously with their death bowlers it might be tough at the death, too.
‘Michael Lumb and Shahid did the job for us so I’m really pleased with the way the batting went up-front and we got the score.’
White was also full of praise for Imran Tahir, who aided the Sussex capitulation with the wicket of visiting skipper Murray Goodwin.
The Pakistan-born South Africa international then added the scalps of Naved-ul-Hasan and Umar Gul to ensure his new bowling partnership with Afridi is one that could lead the Royals to a second consecutive t20 title.
‘Shahid’s struck up a great friendship with Imran’, added White.
‘And it’s a nice duo to have in your side, obviously. If you can get a decent score on the board then those two can work their magic in the middle overs.’