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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Meet the players fueling Pakistan's record-extending run in T20Is

Pakistan earned another series sweep on UAE soil when they beat New Zealand for a third time on Sunday. Paul Radley looks at the captain and four other players who have contributed to a record-extending 11th successive series win

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed, second right, is the heartbeat of the team and the only ever-present on their 33-match unbeaten run in T20 matches. AFP
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed, second right, is the heartbeat of the team and the only ever-present on their 33-match unbeaten run in T20 matches. AFP

When Pakistan won the toss against New Zealand on Sunday night, the few thousand people that had made it to the Dubai International Stadium might have been thinking: “Oh, here we go again.”

Which, for Pakistan fans, must be a very happy sentiment indeed. They are, after all, the world’s most formidable side in a format where long spells of unerring success are rare in the extreme.

Since September 7, 2016, Pakistan have played 33 matches in Twenty20 internationals, which is the format most commonly regarded to be cricket’s most volatile.

And the side often credited with being the sport’s most volatile have been the epitome of consistency. They have won 29 of those matches, and lost four, to give them a win rate of 88 per cent.

In the process, they have won 11 successive series, and have now won nine matches from nine. Five players have been central to the streak.

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Read more:

Mohammed Hafeez: Teamwork behind Pakistan's T20 series success

Pakistan's record-breakers: Key numbers behind 11 successive T20 series wins

Sarfraz Ahmed: Pakistan's record-breaking T20 streak down to 'effort' and 'balance'

Ollie Pope interview: England youngster on 'surreal' call up and how he would love to play UAE T20x

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Sarfraz Ahmed

  • Played 33 (since September 7, 2016)
  • 454 runs at 28.37
  • 23 catches, eight stumpings

And there we were thinking Sarfraz’s stock could not have risen any higher than it was when winning the Champions Trophy last year.

The captain has been the only ever-present in the 33-match streak, during which time he has made over 400 runs and had over 30 dismissals. Sarfraz’s influence, though, is worth so much more than mere numbers.

When Shoaib Malik took a fine boundary catch in a match that was really already all-but won against New Zealand on Sunday, Sarfraz sprinted 80 yards to congratulate him, from his position behind the wickets.

He then raced 80 yards back to discuss the plan for the next over with the bowler Waqas Maqsood, before heading 50 yards down the other end to take his position keeping wicket.

He is the side’s beating heart.

Shoaib Malik carries Babar Azam off injured during the T20 international against England at Old Trafford on September 7, 2016. Getty Images
Shoaib Malik carries Babar Azam off injured during the T20 international against England at Old Trafford on September 7, 2016. Getty Images

Shoaib Malik

  • Played 30
  • 722 runs at 45.12
  • Three wickets at 28.6, 16 catches

Shoaib might inadvertently have provided the motif for the ensuing success in the match that started the run, against England at Old Trafford in 2016.

While Pakistan were setting about getting what was then their biggest T20I win by wickets – nine – Babar Azam suffered injury. To save time, Shoaib scooped him up and lifted him off the field, with apparent love and care.

It was a neat metaphor. The old man of the team pulling his own weight – as well as that of others – while helping nurture the prodigious young talent in the side.

Babar Azam has been a fast scorer in Twenty20 cricket. AFP
Babar Azam has been a fast scorer in Twenty20 cricket. AFP

Babar Azam

  • Played 26
  • 1,031 runs at 54.26

Talking of young talent, it does not come much more precocious than that of Babar.

That match in Manchester was his T20I debut. Therefore, he does not know anything other than unrelenting success.

On Sunday night, the man who was already the format’s No 1 batsman passed 1,000 T20I runs. He has done it at a better clip than Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum, or anyone else.

And he is still only 24. What a gem.

Pakistan cricketer Hasan Ali is an under-rated influence in the field. AFP
Pakistan cricketer Hasan Ali is an under-rated influence in the field. AFP

Hasan Ali

  • Played 27
  • 33 wickets at 22.81

Like Babar, Hasan made his debut in the win against England that kicked off the run, and has been an effervescent presence throughout.

His economy rate of 8.22 might seem a little on the high side, but his strike bowling had been vital.

Pakistan’s success has also been underpinned by a standard of fielding that is far above the norm for sides from their country.

Hasan is an under-rated influence in the field. He is particularly mobile for a fast bowler, and has a laser-guided throw.

Shadab Khan is No 2 in the world rankings for T20 bowlers. AFP
Shadab Khan is No 2 in the world rankings for T20 bowlers. AFP

Shadab Khan

  • Played 29
  • 42 wickets at 17.16, economy rate 6.58

Shadab only turned 20 last month. Yet he has been a vital cog in the success of the past two years, having been touted for a place in the national team almost as soon as he arrived on the scene by his Pakistan Super League coach Dean Jones.

The Islamabad United coach knew what he was talking about. As soon as Shadab was given his bow it was obvious his skills were less for the future as the here and now.

No 2 in the world rankings for T20 bowlers already, and honing in on Rashid Khan’s top spot.

And a number of observers have also debated whether Shadab is – or could be – the best fielder Pakistan has ever produced.

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