How Usman Shinwari went from being Karachi's villain to hero in six balls

Published March 11, 2019
Shinwari snatched victory from Quetta's jaws in the game on Sunday. — PSL
Shinwari snatched victory from Quetta's jaws in the game on Sunday. — PSL

With just an over left and Quetta needing just five to notch another win against Karachi at the National Stadium on Sunday, there was a hero and a villain.

The hero was Quetta opener Ahmed Shehzad, who was single-handedly carrying his team while chasing a stiff target of 191. The villain was Karachi pacer Usman Khan Shinwari, whose 17th over had leaked 22 runs and reduced the equation down from 51 needed off 24 balls to 29 required off 18.

Ahead of the final over, Kings captain Imad Wasim looked exhausted. Probably thinking that the game was out of his grasp, he again tossed the ball to Shinwari, hoping for a miracle he knew wouldn't happen but hoped would happen.

It was the Shinwari who was the joint-most expensive bowler in the match, having conceded 40 runs in just three overs at an eye-watering economy rate of over 13.

As he was going back to his run up, whispers could be heard in the press box that the 25-year-old pacer does not even deserve to play for Kings let alone for the national team. And on the evidence of his previous over, it was hard to oppose that sentiment.

On strike for the Gladiators was Anwar Ali. The Anwar Ali who was once famous for his banana swing but is now known for his late-innings blitzkriegs. Shinwari started off with a wide yorker, which the batsman guided easily to third man for an easy single. The plan was to make sure that Anwar’s strong zone of hitting straight or through mid-wicket region is avoided.

With four needed off five balls, it was Shehzad on strike. The much maligned batter was just a single away from completing a breathtaking century, which would've been his first of the Pakistan Super League (PSL).

He was up against a bowler who he had hit for three sixes off the last four balls of the 17th. It's needless to say that the odds were stacked against Shinwari.

The Khyber Agency-born pacer had clearly looked second best against every batsman he bowled to and had little idea what line to pick against the right-hander. But as clutch players do, Shinwari found his rhythm when it mattered the most.

He bowled another angled delivery going away from the batsman on good length and for once, Shehzad played a loose stroke, presenting a half-chance to Colin Ingram, who took a blinder.

Equation was down to four off four but the odds were still heavily in favour of the batting side as they needed just a run-a-ball in a match where nearly 400 runs were scored in just 40 overs.

On strike was Anwar again as the batsmen had crossed over. Shiwari followed the same plan — wide yorker — and this time, the batsman nicked it to the wicketkeeper. For the first time in a few overs, there was some tension for the batting team.

The Gladiators, who needed five before the over had started, now needed four with only half the over left and two new batsmen at the crease facing a bowler who has a tendency to become extremely lethal when on song.

On strike was all-rounder Mohammad Nawaz, who looked calm and took his guard while his captain Sarfraz Ahmed on the other end came and had a word with him, presumably about not wasting an opportunity to take a run.

Shinwari steamed in for what was a hat-trick delivery and bowled an in-swinging yorker which Nawaz guided to the deep square-leg region for a single.

The equation becomes even more intriguing as Quetta now needed three off two. Captain Sarfraz was facing his first delivery of the innings.

In comes the penultimate delivery and the left-armer claims the prized wicket of his national team captain. All of a sudden, the whispers in the press box begin to change. For one senior journalist, Shainwari "doing the undoable". For another, he was now a shoe-in for the national side.

With three needed off the final delivery, it was veteran all-rounder Sohail Tanvir on strike who was facing just his 23rd delivery of PSL 2019. The crowd chanted Shinwari's name in unison as the pacer steamed in to bowl perhaps Karachi's most important ball of the tournament.

He bowled another exquisite in-swinging yorker which Tanvir only managed to get a leg-bye off as the Kings registered a memorable one-run win and cemented their place in the last-four.

While Shinwari's struggles and subsequent heroics surprised some, those who have been following his career would know that he only deals with extremities.

There shouldn’t be any surprises when he ends up conceding 63 off just four overs like it happened during the second T20I against South Africa. But then he is also capable of offsetting those horror shows by claiming four wickets in the space of six deliveries, like he did in the fourth ODI, also against the Proteas.

When it comes to this southpaw, there is no middle ground. He is either the hero or villain but never a sideshow. That is what makes him such an excitement as you never know what Shinwari will turn up on a given day.


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