“Afridi just needs to play out a few overs, 10 or 15 and the match may already shift drastically in the favour of Pakistan whether the team is batting first or chasing a target.”
This is the most widely held opinion among fans of Shahid Afridi, some who have been offering the very same 'insight' match after match and year after year for the past decade.
They are not wrong. It took him 11 dot balls, and 24 more to score the fastest ODI century, sixteen years ago on this very day against Sri Lanka in Nairobi, Kenya.
Sanath Jayasuriya, whose record Afridi broke, had taken 11 balls more and his brutal knock had coincedentally come up against Pakistan in Singapore, a few months earlier in the same year.
The Wisden Almanack report of that match read: “He was said to be 16 years 217 days old, but he looked older, and the ages of several established Pakistani players had recently been challenged. His brilliance was not in dispute. In all, he scored 102 from 40 balls, with 11 sixes (equalling Jayasuriya's record) and six fours, out of 126 for the second wicket. The full innings was 0,6,1,0,4,0,0,6,0,0,6,6,1,1,6,6,2,6,4,4,0,0,6,6,1,4,1,1,0,4,1,6,0,6,0,2,4,1,0,0. He took 41 off the 11 balls he faced from Jayasuriya, whose ten overs went for 94.”
There was no television coverage of the quadrangular KCA Centenary Tournament in Pakistan, but I distinctly remember the feeling of shock and amazement after the BBC broke the news on cable TV. The carnage was too much to comprehend in the very brief segment which appeared only in tickers from there on in. PTV News also picked up the news and there was much talk about this man who barely anyone had heard of and what he had done on 'that' day. But without actual footage of the clobbering that Afridi had handed out to Sri Lanka, the fact that the batsman took only 24 scoring shots to score the 37-ball century was beyond comprehension.
It was being rumoured around that time that Karachi's famous Rainbow Centre had copies of 'that' match. After several trips I finally got hold of a video cassette titled 'Super Innings Aferidi'. The picture quality fluctuated from grainy to several blank seconds, and it was only five balls into his knock that there were some decent visuals.
Afridi's borrowed bat, gifted by the great Sachin Tendulkar to Waqar Younis, seemed like it had a middle made out of springboard and most of his shots were mere jabs that sailed into the parking lot of the Gymkhana Club Ground. There was nothing 'edgish' about the big shots and for some reason did not look as brutal as some of Afridi's recent assaults.
Knowing Afridi, he is unlikely to have his marked his calendar for today, but rest assured his teammates will remind him that he only needs to play out a few overs.
Watch Afridi's innings here:
-Afridi's 50 off 18 balls in Nairobi is just one slower than the record for the fastest still held by Jayasuriya's 17-ball half-century. Afridi took just 18 ball for his 50 in his knock in Kanpur as well where he scored the joint-second fasted century against India in 2005
-Muttiah Muralitharan, in his attempt to stop Afridi during his knock, bowled several leg breaks at the batsmen as well. The variation, along with Murali's numerous change-ups did not work
-Ravi Shastri witnessed the fastest and the joint second-fastest century from Afridi from the commentary box
-Afridi hit 11 sixes in his century, equalling Jayasuriya's record haul. Shane Watson now tops the charts for the most sixes in an innings with 15 that came in his 96-ball 185 against Bangladesh last year
-Afridi took 50 minutes for his 102 in Nairobi. Saeed Anwar scored his 115 in 176 mins.
-Afridi's strike rate in that match, 255.00, remains the best in an ODI innings while New Zealand's Craig McMillan's 27-ball 64 against USA comes in at number two.