Ben Gardner picks out Wisden’s Pakistan Super League (PSL 2020) team of the tournament.
This year’s Pakistan Super League was unlike any other, with the competition taking an enforced, extended break after the group stages due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. That the final stages happened at all is a triumph in itself, let alone the fact that the games were high-intensity and hugely competitive, featuring a super over and a pair of glorious hands from Babar Azam.
Based on performances from the group stages and the play-offs, here is Wisden’s PSL 2020 team of the tournament:
Babar Azam (Karachi Kings)
12 matches, 473 runs @ 59.12, strike-rate: 124.14, 5 fifties, HS: 78
The strike-rate may worry those who feel T20 cricket is a game waiting to be revolutionised, but by every other metric, Babar Azam was streets ahead of his competitors. Only two other batsmen scored more than 300 runs in the competition, with Fakhar Zaman almost 150 runs behind Babar in second place on the run charts, and the Crown Prince’s five half-centuries were two more than anyone else managed. He saved his best for last too, with scores above 60 in the Qualifier and the Final as Karachi Kings took home the prize. The unbeaten 63 in the showpiece was an innings to savour, including a pristine takedown of Shaheen Shah Afridi, perhaps the most exciting young T20 talent in the world game.
Chris Lynn (Lahore Qalandars)
8 matches, 284 runs @ 40.57, strike-rate: 179.74, 1 hundred, 1 fifty, HS: 113*
Even if Babar takes his time to get set, this team shouldn’t have any problems getting off to a flier with Chris Lynn partnering him. No-one with more than 150 runs in the tournament scored quicker than the hard-hitting Australian. The average shows it wasn’t a boom or bust approach, while Lynn also recorded the highest score of the competition, a 55-ball blitz that made a mockery of a target nearing 200.
Mohammad Hafeez (Lahore Qalandars)
13 matches, 312 runs @ 39.00, strike-rate: 125.30, 2 fifties, HS: 98*; 3 wickets @ 43.33, economy rate: 6.50, BBI: 1-11
The 40-year-old Pakistan all-rounder continued to improve with age, finishing third in the run charts and top of the economy rate ladder too, among those to bowl at least 20 overs. The strike-rate might be on the low side, but, as he showed against England during the summer, he can still uncoil his muscles when needed, smashing a 46-ball 74 in Lahore Qalandars’ Eliminator match against Peshawar Zalmi. Chasing 171, his was the only score above 20 in the innings.
Ben Dunk (Lahore Qalandars) – WK
11 matches, 300 runs @ 37.50, strike-rate: 167.59, 2 fifties, HS: 99*, 9 catches
It’s tough to split Ben Dunk and Lynn when landing on the most explosive batsman of PSL 2020. Lynn edges the strike-rate comparison, but Dunk’s 23 sixes were by far the most in the competition. 12 of those came in a single staggering assault on eventual champions Karachi Kings. After a stodgy start to their chase of 188, Dunk entered at No.4 with the score 50-2 and the required run rate nearing 12 an over. He smashed 99 of the 138 runs required himself, ending the game with five balls to spare.
Kamran Akmal (Peshawar Zalmi)
9 matches, 251 runs @ 27.88, strike-rate: 161.93, 1 hundred, HS: 101
Just edging out Haider Ali in this side is Kamran Akmal, who had a marginally better average and strike-rate than the young superstar. The highlight was his century against Quetta Gladiators. On a pitch on which few others scored freely – Haider Ali was the only other Zalmi batsman to reach double figures, and only managed a 28-ball 25 – the older Akmal brother smashed 17 boundaries, notching almost three-quarters of his team’s runs by himself.
Shadab Khan (Islamabad United)
9 matches, 263 runs @ 37.57, strike-rate: 159.39, 3 fifties, HS: 77; 8 wickets @ 29.37, economy rate: 8.24, BBI: 2-14
Pakistan’s pocket rocket was back close to his best after a difficult spell internationally. Rejuvenated by a move to the middle-order, he thrived with the responsibility in the best possible way, not letting the weight of expectation inhibit his naturally free-flowing stroke-play. No Pakistan batsman scored more runs at a better strike-rate, and only Babar, among all batsmen, managed more fifties.
Samit Patel (Lahore Qalandars)
12 matches, 188 runs @ 26.85, strike-rate: 145.73, 1 fifty, HS: 71; 10 wickets @ 23.50, economy rate: 7.58, BBI: 4-5
A proper all-rounder, capable of contributing with bat and ball, it’s Samit Patel’s bowling that wins him selection for this XI. He claimed the best figures of the competition, with his four-over spell of 4-5, including a triple-wicket maiden, reducing Quetta Gladiators to 22-6 by the time he was done.
Imran Tahir (Multan Sultans)
10 matches, 11 wickets @ 21.63, economy rate: 7.43, BBI: 3-28
In a tournament dominated by quicks, Imran Tahir was the standout spinner. No twirler took more wickets than the South Africa veteran, and only Imad Wasim and Hafeez maintained better economy rates. His continued excellence whenever he took to the park only made his exclusion from Chennai Super Kings’ XI in the IPL all the more puzzling.
Shaheen Shah Afridi (Lahore Qalandars)
12 matches, 17 wickets @ 19.52, economy rate: 7.11, BBI: 4-18
The most exciting young fast bowler not just on show at PSL 2020, but perhaps in the world at the moment. Shaheen Shah Afridi took more wickets than any other bowler, and maintained the best economy rate of any quick too, despite bowling during the toughest phases of the game. The second ball of Qalandars’ Eliminator match against Peshawar Zalmi was peak Shaheen, a pinpoint, inswinging yorker demolishing Haider Ali’s stumps. The tone had been set, and his side went on to seal a place in the final.
Sohail Tanvir (Multan Sultans)
10 matches, 14 wickets @ 16.42, economy rate: 7.54, BBI: 4-13
Another proving that age need be no barrier despite T20 being seemingly a young man’s game. What was arguably Sohail Tanvir’s best performance came in defeat, with an unbeaten 13-ball 25 injecting some life into Multan Sultans’ innings before a double-wicket over, which included the dismissal of a set Babar Azam, rejuvenated their defence. Having been seemingly home dry, needing 26 to win from the last four overs with seven wickets in hand, Karachi Kings scrambled to a tie before prevailing in the super over.
Mohammad Amir (Karachi Kings)
10 matches, 10 wickets @ 32.70, economy rate: 7.63, BBI: 4-25
The leading wicket-taker in Karachi Kings’ PSL 2020 triumph, Mohammad Amir did his best work in the group stages, taking all 10 of his wickets in this phase, but did make one vital contribution in the play-offs, defending 13 in the Kings’ super over win against Multan Sultans.