World's No 1-ranked side clinched their latest series with a six-wicket victory over New Zealand in Dubai on Friday
Pakistan's record-breakers: Key numbers behind 11 successive T20 series wins
When Mohammed Hafeez lasered the fourth ball of the last over from New Zealand to the mid-off boundary to seal a six-wicket win at Dubai International Stadium on Friday night, it clinched an 11th successive series for Pakistan.
Given the short-format is international cricket’s most volatile, that consistent run of good form is stunning. Not surprisingly, it is also a world record.
11 – the magic number
Pakistan have not lost a 20-over series since the World Twenty20 at the start of 2016. The winnings streak all started with success away in England in September of that year.
The consistency is all the more remarkable given the overhaul of personnel, as well as the impediment of not actually knowing where home is.
The run includes a series win over a World XI at home in Pakistan, as well as one over Sri Lanka that straddled playing in both the UAE and Lahore.
In terms of player changes, only five players from the side who beat England at the start of the run were still in the XI against New Zealand on Friday, with the likes of Sharjeel Khan, Khalid Latif and Sohail Tanvir falling by the wayside for contrasting reasons since.
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11 – the target
The win inspired by Shaheen Afridi and Hafeez in Dubai at the weekend was also Pakistan’s eighth match victory in succession, which equalled their own national record – set in the first half of this year.
It means they are three off the overall winning streak record, which is the run of 11 wins Afghanistan had against Ireland, UAE, Oman and West Indies between 2016 and 2017.
Eleven also refers to the number of successive wins Pakistan have had chasing a target. In fact, Friday’s win marked a divergence from their usual gameplan in the UAE.
After losing the toss for the first time in five matches against Australia and New Zealand, Pakistan were invited to bowl first by Kane Williamson.
Chasing is traditionally tricky on the slow wickets of the Emirates, and New Zealand posted an above average target of 154. But Pakistan managed it with great poise.
27.3 – Average age
Sarfraz Ahmed, the captain, pointed to the fact his side is well balanced as being a key driver for their success.
This can be taken to mean an even distribution between power-hitters and dextrous technicians with the bat, varied options with the ball, and even a neat split between boundary fielders, ring fielders, and close catchers.
It could equally reference the fact the side has a perfect blend of youth and experience. Of the XI that played on Friday night, four – Sarfraz, Fakhar Zaman, Imad Wasim and Asif Ali - might be deemed to be at peak age, of between 27 to 31.
Shadab Khan, 20, and Faheem Ashraf, Babar Azam and Hasan Ali, who are all 24, each bring the exuberance of youth, while Shaheen Afridi, aged 18, earned the man of the match award.
“I just want to play for a long time for Pakistan,” said Afridi, who was tipped to be “the next sensation in fast bowling” by Aaqib Javed, his franchise coach, when he burst on the scene earlier this year.
And there is just enough nous in terms of the wise old heads Shoaib Malik, 36, and Hafeez, 38, to lend experience under pressure, as has been evidenced in both the Australia and New Zealand series over the past two weeks.
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When the series win over New Zealand is entered into the ICC’s rankings aggregator after the final match on Sunday, they are likely to hold a lead of 13 rating points over second-placed India in the standings.
The fact the exact same margin – 13 points – separates India in second from South Africa in sixth proves just how far Pakistan are ahead of the competition at present.
“They have been outstanding for a long period of time, and the ratings are fair,” Williamson said.
They also have in their XI the No 1 ranked batsman in the format. Despite opening the innings, Babar Azam has yet to make a T20 hundred.
He has experience of playing in just one overseas T20 franchise league, and his celebrity persona is miniscule compared to many elsewhere in international cricket.
And yet he is consistently Pakistan’s leading run-scorer – as he has been in five of their past six innings across the formats – and is on top of the world in the ICC standings.
And Shadab is zeroing in on top spot in the bowler race, too. He is the closest rival to Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan at the top of those standings.