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What clicks for Pakistan in T20 cricket

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Pakistan_T20I_CricketWhen Fakhar Zaman slogged Hardik Pandya high, but not handsome enough, in the Champions Trophy final at The Oval, it seemed like an 'Oh, Pakistan!’ moment. Such ugly hoicks were commonplace when Pakistan were batting. It was usually followed by the fall of an array of wickets that would see them collapse to a lowly score.

This was different, though. Zaman’s truly horrible shot had come after he had plundered an Indian bowling attack that had South Africa befuddled for 114 runs in 106 balls spread over more than two hours. The scorecard read 200/2 in 33 overs. Was this a different Pakistan? One could only think of a side that would lose their next six wickets for less than a hundred runs. Yet Pakistan racked up 338, losing just two more wickets.

If India didn't see this coming, they had only themselves to blame. Despite squeezing through to the tournament as the eighth and last team, Pakistan were steadily improving as a team before the Champions Trophy. Their T20 fortunes before and after the multi-nation event in England prove that Pakistan are no longer a side that relies solely on their bowling to eke out wins.

Consider their ruthless performance in the recently concluded T20I tri-series in Zimbabwe and you get a better understanding of this Pakistan side. While Australia are in horrible form at the moment, there is no taking away that their bowling attack is impressive. Match that up against Pakistan's batting and you are likely to tilt the balance in Australia's favor, despite what the rankings suggest.

At first glance, this sounds fine. Dig a touch deeper and you see that Pakistan are no longer the kind of team they were two years back, at least in this format of the game. Since the last World T20 in 2016, Pakistan have won 23 of their 27 matches, a win/loss ratio of 5.75, the best among all teams in this period.

Obviously, their bowling has contributed a fair bit to their superb run, reminiscent of their initial exploits in this format. In the 27 games played, Pakistan’s bowlers have taken 174 wickets (the best after India) at an average of 20.16 and an economy of 6.96 (the best in the world). They have taken wickets at a strike rate of 17.3, which is on par with the likes of India but just a shade shy of Australia. Compare this to the overall average and economy aggregates and you see how phenomenal Pakistan have been.

 

Bowling factor

Pakistan

Overall

Economy

6.96

8.07

Average

20.16

26.41

Strike Rate

17.3

19.6

 

But this is not that interesting. Pakistan has always been phenomenal as a bowling unit. They have done well in the format since its inception courtesy some really special bowlers. The current trend looks to be just a continuation of the same, perhaps fueled a bit more by the brilliant bowling in the Pakistan Super League.

What sets them apart in this time period is their batting. In these 27 games, Pakistan's batsmen have averaged 31.24 (second best to India), at a strike rate of 131.75. The strike rate is still a work in progress, but if you consider the fact that their bowling has been ruthless, they don't really need to try and go hammer and tongs like England, whose bowlers haven't backed their batsmen up.

What is interesting is that Pakistan have had no centuries in the last two years in T20Is. In fact, they have had only one century totally in T20Is. This is something which the team could work on, though given the manner in which young players like Fakhar Zaman, Hussain Talat and Asif Ali are batting, we are sure to see one soon.

 

Batting factor

Pakistan

Overall

Average

31.24

23.51

Strike Rate

131.75

129.71

 

The win in the T20I tri-series final once again underlined Pakistan's big match capabilities. They no longer rely on a small handful of players and are not scared to experiment. Led by a flamboyant Sarfraz Ahmed, Pakistan are so confident about their abilities that they show no hesitation in going with a debut opener in a final, or sending an 18-year-old seamer up against a marauding batsman like Aaron Finch.

A perfect blend of youth and experience means that Pakistan are served pretty well in this format. From the inexperienced Hussain Talat, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Asif Ali and Sahibzada Farhan, to Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf and Hasan Ali; Pakistan have a brigade of young players playing a totally different brand of cricket while maintaining the fire and hunger typical of Pakistan players. Mix in the likes of Sarfaraz, Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Amir and you have a fearsome unit which can consistently churn out wins. That is exactly what they have done, too.

 

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