Georgetown: All-rounder Shahid Afridi returned to international cricket with a blistering half century and a career-best 7 for 12 as Pakistan recorded a thumping 126-run victory over West Indies in the first ODI on Sunday. Afridi, recalled after missing last month's Champions Trophy due to poor form, scored 76 off 55 balls to pilot Pakistan to 224-9. Afridi then skittled West Indies out for 98 in 41 overs to record the second-best ever bowling figures in one-day internationals after Sri Lanka's Chamina Vaas' 8-19 against Zimbabwe in 2001.
It was also West Indies lowest ever ODI total against Pakistan. West Indies had Pakistan on the mat at 47-5 before Afridi and captain Misbah-ul-Haq (52) featured in a 120-run stand against some inconsistent bowling which saw the home team bowling 23 wide balls. The second one-day international of the five-match will be played at the same venue Tuesday.
"It was the most difficult pitch on which I have ever played," Misbah said. "The ball was seaming and stopping, but it was Afridi's day, the way he batted and bowled." West Indies never looked to threaten Pakistan's total from the onset once 7-foot-1-inch fast bowler Mohammad Irfan clean bowled Johnson Charles with a low full toss and had Darren Bravo caught behind down the legside.
Chris Gayle, who wanted to make his 250th ODI appearance a memorable one, was run out in a mix-up with Marlon Samuels for just one run as West Indies slumped to 7-3 in five overs. Lendl Simmons and Samuels batted at a snail's pace before Afridi started the slide in the 23rd over.
Afridi had Simmons stumped and trapped captain Dwayne Bravo leg before wicket off the next delivery. He went on to claim the wickets of Kieron Pollard, Samuels and Kemar Roach in his opening spell of eight overs before he returned to finish off the innings by claiming the last two wickets of Sunil Narine and Holder. "I just try to keep it simple, sometimes I get good turn off the pitch and if I don't get turn I try to bowl straight ones for leg before wicket decisions," Afridi said.
Afridi also reached 350 wickets in ODIs to become the third Pakistan to achieve the feat after Wasim Akram (502) and Waqar Younis (416). Earlier, Afridi dominated Pakistan's record-breaking sixth wicket stand against West Indies of 120 runs off 113 balls with Misbah holding the innings together with a sedate 52 off 121 balls.
Afridi holed out in the deep in the 39th over which helped West Indies to hit back but its bowlers were guilty of giving away too many extras which swelled Pakistan's total. Holder broke through early after Dwayne Bravo won the toss and put Pakistan in to bat at Providence Stadium - hosting its first international match after two years.
Ahmed Shehzad (5) and Mohammad Hafeez (1) were clean bowled while attempting to leave Holder's incoming deliveries but Nasir Jamshed (6) was unlucky to be adjudged leg before wicket by umpire Joel Wilson as the television replays suggested the ball was missing the off stump. Asad Shafiq was brilliantly caught behind by makeshift wicketkeeper Johnson Charles after West Indies opted to leave out regular 'keeper Dinesh Ramdin for at least first two games of the five-match series.
Pakistan stuttered at 23-4 and it could have been 24-5, but umpire Wilson again erred when he could not hear a clear edge off Umar Akmal's bat that would have earned Holder his fifth wicket. However, West Indies did not have to wait long as Akmal got a leading edge off Roach and was caught by Dwayne Bravo at mid-on after struggling to score 19 runs.
Afridi then revived Pakistan's innings with Misbah, who gave the flamboyant all-rounder most of the strike. The introduction of spinners Narine and Samuels eased the pressure on the batsmen as both spinners bowled a dozen wide balls among them and gave away 56 runs between them off six overs. Afridi raised the 100-run stand with a flat six off Samuels over long on before he holed out off a slower delivery from Pollard.
Misbah raised his half century off 119 balls with only one boundary but added some valuable runs with Pakistan's tailenders to take the team's beyond the 200-run mark. The Pakistan captain was caught behind in the 48th over when he got a thick edge off Bravo, who also conceded 14 runs in his last over with No. 10 Asad Ali hitting a big six over mid-wicket.