The whole world knows how destructive Shahid Afridi was on the cricket pitch and how much capability he had to demolish the oppositions single-handedly on any given day.
In the history of cricket, October 4 will be remembered for Shahid Afridi’s thunderous inning that he played against Sri Lanka in the year of 1996. No one would have thought in their wildest dreams that a 16-year-old boy will annihilate the experienced Sri Lankan bowling attack like he did that day.
He took only 37 balls to complete his century. Yes, you heard it right, only 37 balls to complete his ton.
He was promoted to number 3 position in the batting line-up for the match that was being held inside the KCA Centenary Tournament held in Nairobi. His promotion looked shocking to many because Pakistan had players like Ijaz Ahmed and Salim Malik in the line-up, which were quite experienced in those positions, but once Afridi started to hit the balls out of the park, everything seemed to be alright.
Pakistan lost their first wicket at the score of 60 when Afridi walked out to bat. Since the start of his innings, he had only one thing in mind – ‘He has to play a match-winning inning for his team’ - and he did just that. He smashed the ball over the boundary rope on the second delivery he faced. Afridi hit a towering six over mid-wicket to Dharmasena. This shot told everyone that how Afridi is going to anchor his innings.
Dharmasena tried to change his line and length, he even changed the ends. But nothing helped him. He kept on hitting Dharmasena for sixes. In the 12th over, Afridi hit Dharmasena for two gigantic sixes which went out of the ground and Afridi’s fellow partner Saeed Anwar told him to play carefully. But, he did not listen and kept on hitting the balls over the boundary ropes.
If you want to know how dominant he was during his inning, then you need to realize that Pakistan completed their second fifty in just 27 deliveries while the first fifty was completed in 60 balls.
But he was in no mood to stop. Afridi hit Sanath Jayasuriya for 3 sixes and 2 fours in a single over and forced Sri Lanka to change their strategy. But, no strategy worked that day because Afridi was in sublime touch out there. He completed his half-century in just 18 balls, which became a world record.
Then, world’s best spinner Muttiah Muralitharan was brought into the attack and this was one contest that everyone was eager to watch. Everyone wanted to see how this young man would play the talismanic spinner. But, what they saw was something that they will never ever forget. He took the same approach and hit Murali for sixes. Even Ranatunga was shocked to see the daring attitude of Afridi.
For the next 19 balls, he continued to bat like there was no tomorrow and completed his century in just 37 balls. He broke Sanath Jayasuriya’s record of hitting a century in just 48 balls. Even Jayasuriya could not stop but appreciate Afridi’s brilliant inning. But this inning had an Indian connection too. Shahid Afridi was using Sachi Tendulkar's bat to play this inning, which was given to him by his senior Waqar Younis.
He still feels that it was an honor to play with Sachin’s bat and admitted that he still has that bat in his trophy cabinet.
Shahid Afridi held the record for ‘Fastest Hundred’ for 17 years till it was overtaken by New Zealand’s Corey Anderson, who completed his century in 36 balls. A year later, South African batsman AB de Villiers broke that record too and hit a ton in just 31 balls against West Indies.
But the inning that was played by Afridi is still rated much higher than the innings played by De Villiers or Corey Anderson. One main reason that his inning is considered to be one of the great innings because he was facing a world-class bowling line-up, which included legends like Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas.
That day, the whole world got to know that a Pakistani legend has entered into the game of cricket.