Fakhar Zaman is an understated ODI genius
Fakhar Zaman is an understated ODI genius, and his latest run of form is giving him the stats to prove it, writes Katya Witney.
New Zealand must be starting to have nightmares about Fakhar Zaman by now. In every one of his last three innings, all of them against the Black Caps, he has scored centuries. Once in Karachi and twice in Rawalpindi, he has put on masterclasses at the top of the order and been near-immovable for New Zealand’s bowlers. Just once in those three innings has he been out to a bowler’s dismissal – he was runout in Karachi and unbeaten yesterday (29 April).
Only Kumar Sangakkara has more consecutive ODI hundreds, with Fakhar joining Babar Azam and Virat Kohli, among others, on the list of those with three in a row. His innings yesterday was the best of the lot.
Faced with Pakistan’s second-highest ever run-chase (337), he scored over half of their required runs to take them to victory with more than an over to spare. As Imam-ul-Haq fell for 24 and Babar struggled early on in his innings, Fakhar continued to pick off the boundaries to reach a 44-ball fifty. Even when Mohammad Rizwan came to the crease to close out the game, Fakhar matched him shot for shot, attacking the spinners to finish his innings with 23 boundaries.
In all, six players passed fifty in yesterday’s match, two of them scoring over 100 (Tom Latham was out for 98). On a Rawalpindi pitch which has produced some of the highest-scoring games in all formats in the last six months, that sounds about right. However, to dismiss Fakhar’s innings as the product of a dead pitch and a ‘B’ string New Zealand bowling attack would not do justice to the context in which it sits.
During the innings, Fakhar passed 3,000 ODI runs. He is the joint second-fastest player ever to do so, having taken 67 innings. That tracks with the trajectory of his career from the start. In 2018, he became the fastest player to reach 1,000 ODI runs, at the time bettering Viv Richards’ record by three innings. Since then, Imam and Shubman Gill have both slotted in one innings below him.
Yesterday’s innings was also the fourth-highest ever in an ODI for Pakistan. Finishing a spot outside of the podium places usually isn’t something to write home about, but Fakhar also occupies positions one and three on that list. The top spot, his 210* blitz against Zimbabwe, is the only double-century ever scored by a Pakistan player in men’s ODIs.
Outside of the Pakistan context, he is also the only player from any country to score 180 twice in chases. Since his debut in 2017, he has the third-most ODI runs of any opener (trumped by Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma), the third-most scores of fifty or more, and the fourth-most hundreds. His ODI batting average now sits at a shade under fifty (49.70). Of openers who have played in 20 or more ODIs, Fakhar’s average is in the top ten.
Ever since Fakhar burst onto the scene in the 2017 Champions Trophy, it’s been clear he’s a special talent. But in the last 12 months, his stats had begun to wane slightly. He averaged 33.66 in 2022, with his one big innings (109) coming against the Netherlands. The contrasting form of Imam – who scored two hundreds and an unbeaten 89 against Australia in 2022, hitting five consecutive half-centuries – only served to highlight his dip in returns.
But in the first four months of 2023, Fakhar has put himself back on track to the career his start promised. With the World Cup fast approaching, he is integral to Pakistan’s chances of a first trophy in the competition for over 30 years. Competing alongside the best in the global game, Fakhar’s record shows he deserves to be ranked among them.