There were so many stunning individual performances in international cricket last week that it is almost impossible to just choose one.
From Shahid Afridi yesterday in Guyana, to the events of the Ashes that included Ian Bell’s best Ashes century, James Anderson’s 10-wicket haul and Ashton Agar’s tear-jerker of a debut, and then earlier in the week the tri-nation final in the West Indies, which saw India triumph over familiar foes Sri Lanka courtesy of another wonderful innings from their iceman MS Dhoni, there are just so many.
The Ashes saw many fine performances. Anderson went past Fred Trueman’s tally of 307 wickets to go third on England’s all-time tally. He produced a devastating and skilful display of seam-bowling that saw him pick up the man of the match award for his figures of 10 for 158.
Bell’s 109 was widely seen as being probably his best Test century, coming as it did with England under pressure, Bell under familiar pressure about his place in the team, and on a Trent Bridge pitch that made scoring difficult. That innings had come after Ashton Agar broke several records with his innings of 98 from number 11 after being unexpectedly thrust into the limelight at just 19 years of age by Australia’s new coach Darren Lehmann. The scenes of pure emotion from his family, who had flown from Australia at short notice to be present, typified what is great about the sport.
There was then, of course, almost a final twist to the Test as Brad Haddin and James Pattinson led the tourists close before Haddin perished for a determined 71.
Dhoni’s return from injury at the beginning of the week to lead India to tri-series glory in the Caribbean seems like a distant memory but, in another week, would have won him the award. He hit 45 off just 52 balls, stats that don’t appear too brilliant at first glance, but they came in a low-scoring match and saw his side home by one-wicket in the last over.
However, none of those win this week’s award. It goes to international cricket’s ultimate comeback kid Shahid Afridi. No-one appears to know for certain just how many times Afridi has been dropped and recalled by Pakistan since his debut in 1996 and the subsequent reputation-forging century that followed two days later, just as no-one is quite sure of his true age. However, what is certain is that he is a ridiculously special talent.
Anyone who has not taken a wicket in six previous ODIs, is then dropped and then recalled for no apparent reason, and returns match figures of seven for 12 after blasting 76 off 55 balls with the bat is more than a bit special.
He arrived at the crease with Pakistan on 47 for five following an opening spell from Jason Holder that read 8-4-8-4 and proceeded to bludgeon the ball with typical abandon on a pitch that his captain Misbah-ul-Haq described as one of the toughest he has come across.
He then bowled his maverick assortment of leg-spinners, sliders and googlies and spun the West Indies out for just 98. His figures of seven for 12 were the second-best in the 3889-match history of ODI cricket and saw him become the first player in the format’s history to reach both the 7000-run and 350-wicket milestones.
© Cricket World 2013