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FLt20 welcomes Afridi and Gul

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Shahid Afridi

Shahid Afridi, cleared to play by the Pakistan Cricket Board, is set to make his Hampshire bow against Essex at Chelmsford tonight

Shahid Afridi and Umar Gul will add a touch of Pakistani lustre to tonight’s Friends Life t20 fixtures.

Both are set to make their debuts in this season’s competition after arriving on short-term deals.

Afridi, the explosive and controversial all-rounder who recently announced his international retirement, is in line for his eagerly-awaited Hampshire bow against Essex at Chelmsford after finally being granted clearance by the Pakistan Cricket Board following a much-publicised dispute.

Hampshire, however, will be missing Michael Lumb, who is on England duty ahead of the NatWest Twenty20 international against Sri Lanka on Saturday, while Essex can expect to be without Ravi Bopara until the end of the subsequent NatWest Series.

Despite a two-point pitch penalty, Hampshire sit second in the South Group, just one point behind Sussex, for whom seamer Gul will feature for the first time against Glamorgan at the SWALEC Stadium.

Widely regarded as one of the finest limited-overs bowlers around, Gul joins compatriot Rana Naved-ul-Hasan at Sussex for the remainder of the campaign.

“We’re thrilled to have Umar with us at a stage when we’re looking to continue making an impact at the top of the table,” said professional cricket manager Mark Robinson.

“We believe that in Umar and Rana Naved we have two of the best t20 bowlers in the world at our disposal and the prospect of those two bowling in tandem is a mouth-watering one for anyone”.

Luke Wright is absent tonight, and for tomorrow’s trip to Somerset, due to England Twenty20 commitments.

The other game in today’s programme sees Surrey entertain Middlesex at the Kia Oval in front of more than 10,000 people.

England commitments preclude Kevin Pietersen and Jade Dernbach lining up for the hosts - pace bowler Stuart Meaker is added to the squad - while Middlesex are hampered by the absence of Eoin Morgan and Steven Finn for the same reason.

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