Aggressive Pakistani strokemaker Shahid Afridi has signed for South Australia in the domestic Twenty20 Big Bash tournament starting late December.
The South Australian Cricket Association announced on Tuesday that Afridi, who was player of the tournament at the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in 2007, would replace Sri Lankan spinner Ajantha Mendis as the Redbacks’ international recruit.
Afridi had earlier been reported as a possible target for New South Wales, which won the inaugural Twenty20 Champions League in India earlier this week. New South Wales beat Australia’s other contender, Victoria, in the semifinals of the tournament which brings together the leading provincial teams from around the world.
Afridi has featured in 24 T20 internationals and has a strike rate of 147 and best bowling figures of 4-11. South Australia has five matches in the domestic T20 league, from which the top two teams qualify for the next edition of the international Champions League.
Afridi, who will lead the T20 world champion Pakistani lineup against New Zealand in the short format later this month, joins a list of high-profile foreign recruits in the Australian tournament.
West Indies pair Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo signed for Western Australia and Victoria and Sri Lankan paceman Lasith Malinga joined Tasmania for the competition.
SACA high performance manager Jamie Cox said Afridi’s signing was an important building block for the Redbacks.
“We narrowly missed out on finals last season and these signings are definitely a boost to our quest to qualify for the Champions League this year,” Cox said in a statement. “I have made no secret of the fact that I view the Big Bash competition as the most commercial on the domestic calendar and the Champions’ League also provides fantastic opportunities for young players to showcase their skills on the world stage.”
Afridi has played 285 limited-overs internationals and, on top of a batting strike rate of 110 per 100 balls faced, he has taken 264 wickets with his leg spin and a best haul of 6-38.
At age 16 and in his maiden ODI innings, Afridi scored what still remains the fastest ever limited-overs international hundred from just 37 balls against Sri Lanka at Nairobi in 1996. He also scored 102 off 45 balls against India at Kanpur in 2005.
South Australia opens the T20 Big Bash at Western Australia on Dec. 29, with home matches on January 3, 7 and 12 and closing with an away match against New South Wales at the former Sydney Olympic stadium at Homebush on January 17.
State teams competing in the Australian T20 league are allowed two imported players.