Shaheen Shah Afridi inspires Welsh Fire to first Hundred victory since 2021
Two wickets in the first two balls of the innings for Pakistan ace Shaheen Shah Afridi set Welsh Fire on their way to their first Hundred victory since 2021.
With just 40 balls per side, Manchester Originals fell nine runs short of the Welsh Fire total of 94, despite Jos Buttler’s unbeaten 37 off 18 and Max Holden’s 37.
Afridi set the tone at the top, while fellow Pakistan bowler Harris Rauf went for just 15 in the middle overs to put Originals behind the run rate.
Welsh Fire’s total was built around a superb 57 off 23 by opener Luke Wells allowing celebrations at Sophia Gardens as Welsh Fire started with a win after losing every game last season.
The match was reduced to a planned 40 balls per side in an hour of cricket, with a 10-ball powerplay, following on from the abandonment of the women’s game – which had been the first time a Welsh Fire match had been totally abandoned.
Originals won the toss and unsurprisingly chose to bowl first for what was inevitably going to be a helter skelter effort by both sides.
Welsh Fire opener Wells set off like a train against the pace of Josh Tongue, fresh from the Ashes, and then Josh Little.
He took the early strike, but when Joe Clarke did get a chance to face he hit Little straight to point for the first wicket to fall. However, there were still 25 runs off the first 10 balls.
Wells continued to dominate and find the gaps in the field, though Pakistan leg spinner Usama Mir temporarily put the brakes on proceedings until his last four balls went for 17.
Wells would eventually depart for an excellent 57 when he was caught on the boundary by Jamie Overton off Little as he went for another six.
Big-hitting David Willey was promoted up the order, while South African Glenn Phillips took the initiative with 19 off 12.
Fire would have wanted to top three figures, but had to settle with 94 off their 40 balls as Tom Hartley’s final five balls of the innings went for only seven runs, including the wicket of Phillips.
A lot was going to depend on openers Phil Salt and Jos Buttler as Fire brought in Pakistan opening bowler Afridi to try and reverse their fortunes.
He made an immediate impact. His first ball swung in to trap Salt in front before his second ball was a carbon copy to get rid of Laurie Evans. Holden found the swing easier to cope with as Afridi bowled 10 balls straight, conceding 24.
Buttler started quietly before suddenly announcing himself with 10 runs off two balls from David Payne, before smashing another huge six off Pakistan’s Harris Rauf.
Rauf only went for 15 off his 10 balls, leaving Originals needing 36 off the last 10 balls.
Holden was well caught at deep point by Phillips off the bowling of Willey, but Paul Walter announced his arrival with a huge six over midwicket before departing next ball caught behind. Buttler’s late assault was too little too late for Originals.
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