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Afridi-inspired Pakistan level series

Pakistan 351 for 4 (Yousuf 101*, Younis 93, Afridi 77*, Nazir 57) beat South Africa 210 (de Villiers 43, Afridi 3-25) by 141 runs

The unpredictability of Pakistan shone brightly at Durban as they levelled the series with a 141-run victory which was as commanding as their effort at Centurion had been feeble. Shahid Afridi lit up the display with a scintillating onslaught, supported by a glowing century from Mohammad Yousuf, and even a floodlight failure couldn't dim Pakistan.

They were in control when Yousuf and Afridi joined forces in the 39th over, but what followed turned a tidy batting performance into a display of carnage. They added 129 in 11.4 overs, Afridi racing to 77 off 35 balls, and Yousuf a ton from 110 balls which lifted the total to a ground record 351 for 4, also Pakistan's best against South Africa.

The start of the pursuit suggested a match was on the cards - after all it is South Africa that chased 435 at Johannesburg - but in reality Pakistan always held the whip hand under the lights. Quick strikes either side of the 30-minute power outage, which came two balls before the 20-over mark that makes a match, secured the result. Mohammad Asif, sending down his 10 overs straight, was the bowler of the match while Abdul Razzaq and Afridi supported well.

The result vindicated Pakistan's tactics of jamming the side with batting, handing Mahmood a first ODI since February 2005, which meant the top order could play with freedom. The platform was laid by Imran Nazir and Younis Khan; then the pyrotechnics arrived.

Afridi bludgeoned the ball to all corners of Kingsmead. His first six came off his fifth ball and five more followed, including two of amazing power from low full-tosses and another that hit the roof of a stand and finished in the road off a waist-high delivery. His half-century came off a blink-of-the-eye 20 balls. The South African bowlers, especially Andre Nel, fed him with the short stuff which stood up and asked to be hit. It was, a long way.

This was also Afridi at his cheeky best, never better exemplified than when he twice walked across his stumps and swept Makhaya Ntini to fine leg. Then he brought out his best Kevin Pietersen impression, effortlessly flicking a full toss through midwicket on one leg.

When Afridi walked out, Yousuf was on 52 and his century was almost a by-the-way moment such were the headline-grabbing feats at the other end. But it was a typical Yousuf knock, working the gaps and punishing the loose balls. He reached his 12th ODI ton in the final over and fed Afridi the strike at every opportunity.

Even before the Afridi show, Pakistan had shown that they'd decided to get out of bed on the right side this morning. Nazir, recalled in place of Mohammad Hafeez, set the ball rolling with a rollicking 57 off 33 balls.

Charl Langeveldt hit back by trapping him with a fine slower-ball and with the innings only 12 overs old Yousuf and Younis Khan sensibly opted for accumulation, working the strike with sharp running which is not always a facet of Pakistan cricket. Younis was set for only his third ODI century but picked out long on against Graeme Smith's offspin. When Inzamam-ul-Haq decided today was the right time to add to his run-out count, Pakistan's progressed threatened to slow. Afridi put them firmly back in the fast lane.

Asif again stood head and shoulders above Pakistan's other bowlers and brought an edge from Smith which was well held at second slip. Inzamam gambled by using Asif for his full quota and in his final over showed signs of cramp. But just to sum up his immense efforts on tour he took drink, a deep breath, and removed Herschelle Gibbs.

Either side of Asif's blows Razzaq snapped up two equally sizable wickets. He took over from Rana Naved-ul-Hasan who'd bowled a miserable first spell, conceding 43 off four overs to loosen all Asif's pressure. de Villiers had reached 43 off 46 balls before finding midwicket with a limp pull and two balls after Gibbs fell, Jacques Kallis feathered an edge to Akmal.

With that the lights went out on South Africa's chances of a win - and also on the stadium. For a while it appeared they might escape because 20 overs hadn't been completed. However, play resumed and Ashwell Prince handed Mahmood a wicket with his first ball in ODIs for two years. After that the match faded away, but thankfully the lights didn't and neither will the memories of Afridi.



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