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Feel-good opener for Pak

Middle-order clicks,Afridi takes five wickets in 205-run win over Kenya.

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Hambantota |
February 24, 2011 1:15:29 am

There are few sporting arenas in the world around which it has not reverberated at some point of time ever since it became an instant hit some 40 years ago. And James Brown’s ever-popular rock-dance number ‘I feel good’ echoed around the Mahinda Rajapakse International stadium every time a boundary was hit or a wicket fell on Wednesday. To their credit,Shahid Afridi and the rest of the Pakistani team ensured that the decent crowd that turned up at Hambantota got enough opportunities to groove to the all-time super-hit,leaving them on their feet deep into the night.

But while Afridi & Co did all the ‘feeling good’,they left a hapless Kenyan outfit with little to be cheerful about. The Pakistanis would have been more than satisfied with the manner in which they kicked off their 2011 World Cup campaign—a resounding 205-run win with more than 16 overs to spare.

Along the way,they also ended up defying their reputation of being slow starters and unpredictable with a well-rounded and commanding performance. All four of their frontline middle-order batsmen scored half-centuries — most in good time — as they went onto reach a total of 317 after electing to bat.

And Afridi led the way with the ball in his customary inspirational and aggresive fashion,finishing with a five-wicket haul but not before all his premier bowlers had had a good run,and looked impressive during their respective spells.

Though the openers had an off day,Kamran Akmal seemed in good flow as he took charge of the innings from the difficult position of 12-2. The perennially under-pressure wicket-keeper was his forceful self with the bat,hitting boundaries in most of his usual areas —a pull over square-leg and a cracking cut in the point region bringing up his half-century. By the time he threw his wicket away with an innocuous hoick,he had added 98 runs with Younis Khan.

Younis,who scored a fluent 67-ball 50,looked set — just like his fellow seasoned campaigner Misbah-ul-Haq after him — from the time he walked out to bat. And a characteristic straight drive played with the full face of the bat early in his knock was symptomatic of his solid presence at the crease.

The Misbah-Umar Akmal partnership,however,was the most gratifying of the lot. The 118-run stand that they put together in just 79 balls was the most entertaining one anyway. Both looked positive from the onset,Misbah in fact bringing back memories of his memorable displays during the 2007 World T20. And as Brown crooned his voice hoarse through the amplifiers,the junior Akmal put the Kenyan bowlers to the sword with boundaries all over the —round-including three on the trot off Elijah Otieno. His six over extra-cover off Jimmy Kamande though was the stand-out.

Shoaib Akhtar — despite huffing and puffing through his five-over spell-looked as incisive as ever,while left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman displayed enough positives in his bowling to justify being picked ahead of Saeed Ajmal.

The finishing touches on what proved to be an almost perfect opening game for Pakistan were left to Afridi. And the skipper hit all the right notes — with his usual beligerence — to spin the Kenyans off their feet.

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