KARACHI: Pakistan are renowned for their performances in the shorter formats, and it was therefore no surprise to see the team impress in the T20I format.
New skipper Sarfraz Ahmed has improved the team almost beyond recognition since the 2016 World T20 debacle.
The side has won 12 out of the 14 T20Is they have played under Sarfraz, with eight of the 10 wins coming in 2017 alone.
The overall average may not have improved much from 2016’s 25.07 to 2017’s 26.14 but several individuals impressed in the last calendar year.
Young Babar Azam, who finished the year as the best batsman in the 50-over format for the Men in Green, was also the highest run-getter in the shortest of the game with 352 runs; averaging 39.11 in the process.
However, the real star for the team was veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik, whose 273 runs may be less than Babar’s tally but were still often the difference for Pakistan. Malik’s average of 45.5 and strike-rate of 144.44 put him on top of both those statistics for the Men in Green, showing just how pivotal he has become in the lower middle order as Pakistan’s finisher.
It is in the bowling department though that Pakistan have come leaps and bounds in the last 12 months. Their 62 wickets in 2017 may be 18 less than the 80 they took in 2016 but they came in 10 matches as compared to 2016’s 15. This means, on average, Pakistan took almost one more wicket every game in 2017 as compared to 2016.
The team’s overall bowling average went down from 26.1 in 2016 to 21.27 in 2017, with the strike-rate also improving to 18.6 from 21.6.
Aggressive bowlers can often leak more runs but Pakistan not only took more wickets in 2017 but also gave away fewer runs; picking up wickets at crucial junctures to hamper the opposition’s momentum.
The run-rate went down from 7.25 to 7.0, while their six maiden overs in 2017 was better than their five in 2015; despite Pakistan playing five games fewer.
Leg-spinner Shadab Khan was the undoubted find of 2017 in the shortest format for Pakistan, with the Islamabad United star finishing as the most successful bowler with 14 wickets at an average of 16.64 and a strike-rate of 15.3.
Defining moments for Pakistan T20I cricket in 2017
Shadab’s dream start: Shadab Khan’s rise in international cricket is rather impressive to say the least and it is easy to forget how few people knew about him less than 12 months ago. But following an impressive season in the 2017 PSL, Shadab was given the chance to shine at the international level in Pakistan’s four-match T20I series against West Indies; a chance he grabbed with both hands. The Mianwali-born leggie announced his arrival on the international stage with back-to-back man of the match awards after picking three and four wickets in his first two matches for the Men in Green.
Series win in West Indies: Pakistan’s four-match T20I series against the West Indies in West Indies was captain Sarfraz Ahmed’s first assignment away from their makeshift UAE home, and the wicketkeeper-batsman hardly put a foot wrong as the leader of the pack. A comfortable six-wicket win in the series opener was followed up by close victories in the second and fourth T20I as the Karachi-born keeper’s first success paved way for more wins later in the year. The star of the show for Pakistan was young leg-spinner Shadab Khan, who won the player of the series award by claiming 10 wickets.
Return of international cricket: Pakistan waited for the return of international cricket on home soil for more than eight years since the attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team bus in 2009. In September 2017, the dream of seeing their very own take on a hosts of superstars became true for fans of Pakistan. A high-quality three-match series between a World XI side under the leadership of South Africa’s Faf du Plessis captaincy and Sarfraz Ahmed’s Pakistan finished 2-1 in the home side’s favour as the Men in Green clinched the decider after losing the second game.
First three-match series win in Pakistan: T20I cricket became a part of the sport’s main stream after the successful organisation of the World T20 in 2007, but it was Pakistan’s bad luck that the team couldn’t play a single three-match series at home until late 2017. In September 2017, the team managed to finally complete a three-match series, from which they emerged victorious against a World XI side consisting the likes of South Africa’s Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Australia’s George Bailey and many others.
Faheem Ashraf’s hat-trick: Getting a hat-trick in any form of cricket is difficult and more so in the 20-over format where the bowlers have only four overs to achieve the feat. It is primarily because of that reason that only five bowlers have managed to achieve the milestone since the start of the format in 2005. But on October 27, 2017, young all-rounder Faheem Ashraf joined the elite club and became the sixth bowler and the first Pakistani to claim three wickets off three balls during the second T20I of the three-match series against Sri Lanka by claiming the wickets of Isuru Udana, Dasun Shanaka and Mahela Udawatte on consecutive deliveries in the 19th over of the innings.
Return of Sri Lanka in Lahore and series win: Every team wants to end the year on a high and Pakistan just achieved that with a thumping series win over Sri Lanka in their last international assignment of the year. Numerous Sri Lankan players opted to rest due to security concerns over the last T20I, which was being played at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Pakistan took full advantage of the gulf in class and were comfortable 3-0 winners in the series, courtesy seven wicket, two wicket and 36 runs victories.