This year turned out to be a mixed bag for Pakistan in T20Is, as it left the Men in Green with more questions than answers
The year 2020 proved to be as unpredictable as the Twenty20 format, with various series being cancelled and tournaments being rescheduled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In all this chaos, the only predictable thing turned out to be Pakistan’s performance in the shortest format, as they notched up series wins against weaker oppositions at home and failed to win away from home against more fancied opponents.
After being hammered 2-0 in their last T20I series in 2019 against Australia, Pakistan called up veteran all-rounders, Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, back into the national side for their first series of the year against Bangladesh. Pakistan beat the visitors convincingly, courtesy of unbeaten match-winning fifties by Malik and Hafeez in the first and second T20I, respectively.
The Men in Green had to wait until August for their next T20I series as they travelled to England for a completely different challenge in the shape of a three-match series, played in a bio-secure bubble.
Hafeez was again the star with the bat, as he helped Pakistan to score 190 plus scores in the second and third T20I, after the first match was washed out due to rain. The Men in Green failed to defend the target in the second match, but made a brilliant comeback in third match to draw the series 1-1.
Next up was Zimbabwe at home, which allowed Pakistan to give an opportunity to youngsters who had impressed in the National T20 Cup, prior to the series. Pakistan batsmen breezed to the target in all three T20Is after restricting Zimbabwe to modest totals.
Pakistan toughest challenge of the year came against New Zealand, where the Men in Green young batsmen found it tough to handle the bounce, which resulted in the hosts taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series after the first two T20Is .The Men in Green clinched a consolation win in the third match on the back of a magnificent chasing effort from wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan.
Even though Pakistan won seven and lost three T20Is, this year turned out to be a mixed bag for them in T20Is, as it left the Men in Green with more questions than answers ahead of the T20 World Cup in India next year.
Rizwan was under a lot of pressure as question marks were being raised regarding his place in the T20I side. There were never any doubts about his wicketkeeping skills, but his strike rate in T20Is left a lot to be desired.
However, the wicketkeeper-batsman gave a fitting reply to his critics with a career-best 89-run knock from 59 balls, as Pakistan defeated New Zealand by four wickets in third match to avoid a series sweep.
The 28-year-old’s 89-run knock is the highest individual score by a wicketkeeper during a T20I chase. The previous highest was Tim Seifert’s 84 not out during the second T20I of the same series.
Mohammad Rizwan’s 128 runs, during the series, also lifted him 152 places to 158th position in the International Cricket Council (ICC)’s Twenty20 Rankings for batsmen.
Usman Qadir shines
Son of legendary leg-spinner Abdul Qadir, Usman, announced his arrival on the world stage in grand fashion after he bagged the player of the series award in the home series against Zimbabwe.
Qadir claimed eight wickets in three matches at an economy rate of 5.45 during the series, which helped him become the joint second-highest wicket taker for Pakistan in T20Is during the calendar year 2020.
With the next year’s T20 World Cup set to take place in India, where pitches are conducive for spinners, Qadir’s rise could help Pakistan form a potent spin-bowling attack ahead of the mega event. The experience of Imad Wasim, exuberance of Shadab Khan and guile of Qadir might have a favourable impact on Pakistan’s chances at the World Cup.
Pakistan has a habit of making stars out of the unknowns and New Zealand’s Jacob Duffy made full use of this opportunity during the first T20I of the series in Auckland.
The right-arm pacer had a dream start to his T20I career at Auckland, as he dismantled Pakistan’s top-order with his pace and bounce leaving the visitors reeling at 20-4 inside the powerplay.
The 26-year-old pacer received the player of the match award for his brilliant spell of 4/33, which are the best figures by a New Zealand bowler on his T20I debut.
Duffy, who hails from Lumsden, was the first cricketer from Southland to debut for the Black Caps since Jeff Wilson, in 1993, and the first to feature in the playing XI for them since Wilson’s post-rugby comeback ended in 2005.
Mohammad Hafeez made his T20I debut in 2006 and just had his best year with the bat after playing the shortest format for 14 years.
The 40-year-old scored 415 runs across 8 T20I innings; the most runs by any batsman in T20Is this year, with four fifties at an average of 83 and a strike rate of 152.57. He was followed by India's K. L. Rahul, 404 runs in 10 innings, and England's Dawid Malan, 397 runs in 10 innings.
The 40-year-old proved once again that age is just a number as he dominated opposition bowling attacks throughout the year.
After hitting a match-winning fifty on his comeback against Bangladesh, the all-rounder was named player of the series against England for topping the batting charts with 155 runs, including a player of the match effort of 86 not out in the third and final match.
The unbeaten 86-run knock was Sargodha-born batsman’s highest score in T20Is, until he bettered his record by playing a career-best unbeaten 99-run innings against New Zealand, which included five sixes and 10 fours. With this knock, Hafeez also broke the record for the highest T20I score by a batsman after turning 40 as he went past Malta’s Heinrich Gericke’s score of 91 against Bulgaria in T20I cricket.
PSL have previously thrown young stars like Shadab Khan and Shaheen Afridi into the limelight and the competition followed its tradition this year as well, as the rookie batsman Haider Ali stole the headlines with his explosive batting
While representing Peshawar Zalmi in PSL 2020, the 20-year-old scored 239 runs at a strike rate of 158.27.
His performance in PSL earned him a national call-up and the youngster justified his selection on his T20I debut for Pakistan. The Attock-born batsman became the first Pakistan player to score a Twenty20 International half-century on debut, when he brought up his milestone from 28 deliveries against England in the third match of the series.
Haider hammered a huge six over mid-wicket with only his second ball in international cricket, displaying his potential and announcing himself on the big stage.
He also scored an unbeaten 66 against Zimbabwe in Rawalpindi to continue his impressive start in T20I cricket. Although, he was unable to impress in the New Zealand T20I series but Haider remained one of the brightest sparks in the Men in Green’s batting department during the year 2020.