Analysing the reasons behind Pakistan's T20I domination this year
Pakistan have dominated T20I cricket this year by winning 15 of their 17 T20 matches the year 2018 with 7 of those wins coming in a row. Pakistan are the only second team after India to win 7 consecutive T20I matches on 3 different occasions.
Not only that, they are on the cusp of breaking India's record (15 wins) of most wins in a calendar year needing one more win in the remainder of their T20 series vs New Zealand.
On paper, Pakistan seem to have an average side with 3 or at best 4 outstanding players in this format, so what exactly has been the real reason behind Pakistan's T20I domination this year? We take a look:
#1 Steady batting in the Powerplay overs
Barring Fakhar Zaman, Pakistan do not have a dasher at the top who loves to go "Hammer and Tonks" from ball number one. Stats will back me here as according to Cricviz, Pakistan have the second worst scoring rate (7.55 RPO) in the powerplay overs among all the T20I playing nations this year. Australia's 9 RPO is best Powerplay run rate while West Indies' 7.52 RPO being the worst, as per the data accumulated by Cricviz.
In terms of strike rates, Fakhar Zaman's 151.96 is the best for any Pakistani top order batsman but after that, no other top order batsman likes to take risks and instead look to bat out the overs. Babar Azam has been striking at 128.32 this year while Mohd Hafeez's strike rate at 124.42 isn't the best either.
Despite being the world number one T20I side, Pakistan's success isn't built on fast starts. Instead, they like to finish well in the death overs with Shoaib Malik (162.67), Sarfraz Ahmed (145.08) and Asif Ali (147.01) striking hard in latter parts of the innings.
#2 Stifling their opponents during middle overs
Pakistan have been lucky to be able to field both Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan in their playing XI. Both spinners offer different dimensions to Pakistan's bowling attack. While Imad has an astonishing economy rate of 5.93 RPO in Powerplay overs, Shadab, on the other hand, picks crucial wickets in the middle overs to put the breaks on opposition teams.
Shadab Khan is the second highest wicket-taker in T20I cricket this year having picked 25 wickets in 17 matches with an economy rate of 6.60 RPO. Along with Shadab, Pakistan have the likes of Hasan Ali (15 wickets in 2018) and Faheef Ashraf (14 wickets in 2018) who keep picking wickets at regular intervals to keep Pakistan in the game all the time.
#3 Babar Azam and Babar Azam
A lot has gone unsaid about Babar Azam's brilliance with the bat this year despite the consistent runs from the 24-year-old opener. Babar's natural game is to stay at the wicket and look to accumulate runs with boundaries as well as singles and doubles.
He has scored 454 runs (5th highest in 2018) from just 10 innings this year averaging 63.42 and striking at 128 runs per 100 balls. Babar's patient innings have allowed Pakistan to build their innings and go hard at the death overs.
He may not have Rohit Sharma's boundary hitting ability but he makes it up with his intelligent rotation of strike and the uncanny ability to find the gap. His consistent run-scoring has made him the number one T20I batsman in the world and with 2 games to go vs New Zealand, we can very well expect Babar to be among the runs once again.
The current Pakistan team is one of the best T20 sides to have taken to field in recent years and stats back this notion too. Pakistan have won 26 of their last 30 T20 matches which is only behind Sialkot Stallions' record (27 Wins, 3 defeats) in a 30-match streak.
Having said that, Pakistan's 26 wins and 4 defeats is the best 30-match streak in T20I history. We are witnessing something special unfold with this Pakistani T20I side and they will indeed be one of the favourites going into 2020 T20I Cricket World Cup.