Shahid Afridi exploited Derbyshire’s lack of big-time experience – it was their first T20 quarter-final since 2005 – to propel far more seasoned Hampshire into T20 finals day at Edgbaston on 2 September. Afridi, the former Pakistan captain, promoted to open, hit one of the fastest centuries made in the NatWest Blast off 42 balls.
Afridi, almost indisputably the best hitter Pakistan have produced, never let Derbyshire’s nerves settle. Their opening gambit of using Wayne Madsen’s slow offbreaks for the first over had been working against hesitant county batsmen but the belligerent 37 year-old swept and drove four fours – and Derbyshire’s game-plan unravelled from there.
Afridi smote ten fours and seven sixes to finish with 101 off 43 balls. Derbyshire had prepared a green seaming track for their seamers but under Afridi’s assault they lost their length and pitched far too full – and, strangely, their only seamer of much international experience, Matt Henry of New Zealand, did not bowl a single over in the six-over Powerplay, and did not bowl his second over until the 13th of the innings, when he had Afridi caught at long-leg off a top-edged hook.
It was an astonishing piece of bottom-handed bashing by Afridi, one of the stars of the T20 global circuit. In addition to taking Derbyshire’s spinners apart, Afridi mesmerised their seamers into bowling a succession of length balls and full tosses – and Madsen into dropping the simplest of catches off an Imran Tahir full toss, although Afridi had reached 65 by then and already pummelled Derbyshire into submission.
Hampshire’s captain James Vince supported Afridi with 55 off 36 balls. In all Hampshire exploited the short straight boundaries to hit 22 fours and 14 sixes in what was their highest T20 total, and the eighth highest total in all T20 cricket worldwide.
Derbyshire, facing the insuperable target of 250, lost four wickets in the powerplay alone and were eventually dismissed for 148 after a determined 46-run 10th wicket stand between Imran Tahir and Ben Cotton.
Hampshire, who bowled a far more appropriate length for the conditions, won the T20 final in 2010 and 2012.