Groundhog Day as Royals stroll to another win

Unplayable: Hampshire Royals' Shahid Afridi
Unplayable: Hampshire Royals' Shahid Afridi
Hampshire's James Vince hits a six during the NatWest T20 Blast Finals Day at Edgbaston, Birmingham. PPP-170309-212743001

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If the Friends Life t20 has occasionally been likened to Groundhog Day because of the vast number of games, then Shahid Afridi is fast becoming Phil Connors as the Royals strolled to a seven-wicket win over Middlesex.

Just like Bill Murray’s character who endured the same day over and over again in the popular film, the Pakistan all-rounder appears to becoming increasingly unplayable in this form of the game every time he plays.

No matter what deck is on offer, batsmen can hardly get him off the square and the inevitable clatter of wickets follows.

His bowling figures of three for 16 from his four overs against Middlesex saw him fire in two extraordinary overs, with figures of two wickets for just three runs as the Royals reduced the Panthers to 61 for one to 74 for six in the blink of an eye.

Again, Dimi Mascarenhas (two for 28) played his part at the top of the innings.

He took the scalps of both Paul Stirling and the dangerous Adam Rossington (25) to put the brakes on the Panthers, who had made a very impressive start to reach 61 for two in seven overs.

But from there, Afridi, Imran Tahir (one for 14) – who took a superb low catch off his own bowling – and Danny Briggs (one for 24) picked off the batsmen with alarming ease, with only Sam Robson (28 not out) offering any resistance as Middlesex closed on 121 for nine – some way down on a competitive Uxbridge total.

In reply, Michael Lumb (12) fell in the fifth over, mistiming a cut to backward point to leave the Royals at 33-1.

But Vince (39) and Jimmy Adams (38 not out) put on 51 for the second wicket, with Vince, in particular, looking in seriously good nick until he lofted another expansive shot almost straight up in the air to perish.

Even with the second wicket down, it looked like a walk in the park for the Royals.

Although, Neil McKenzie (two) suffered a rare failure as he was caught on the boundary going for a maximum.

But Sean Ervine (22 not out) struck some cracking late blows alongside the immovable Adams as the Royals cruised home with 18 balls to spare.

It said so much that Afridi wasn’t even required to bat.