When 240 is par – how Rawalpindi created the perfect recipe for a succession of runfests
Peshawar Zalmi’s win over Islamabad United today marked the end of the Rawalpindi leg of the 2023 Pakistan Super League, a stretch of the tournament that has seen some of the highest rates of scoring in T20 history.
The numbers are extraordinary. Across 11 games at Rawalpindi there have been 12 team totals of 200 or more. Three of the highest 10 match aggregates in the history of T20 cricket took place at Rawalpindi in the last week alone. Multan Sultans’ win over Quetta Gladiators yesterday saw the most runs scored in a single T20 game as Quetta Gladiators came close to hauling down Multan Sultans’ mammoth first innings total of 262. Remarkably, Peshawar Zalmi posted two scores of 240 or more and saw them both chased down with ample time remaining. Three of the four fastest ever Pakistan Super League hundreds have been struck in Rawalpindi this year – Usman Khan’s 36-ball hundred on Saturday was the 11th fastest century in the format’s history.
So what’s behind the remarkable scoring?
If any ground in the world were to host a such a spree of high scores, it would be Rawalpindi. In December 2022 Rawalpindi hosted a record-breaking Test that saw England score more than 500 runs on the opening day alone. The pitches during the Rawalpindi leg have been extremely flat, offering true bounce for the batters with very little grass left on the pitch to give any sort of assistance to the bowlers.
The boundary sizes haven’t helped bowlers either. While there are shorter boundaries elsewhere on the T20 circuit, the ropes have generally been brought in leaving plenty of spare outfield space left outside the playing area. Usama Mir’s first ball upper cut for six in Multan’s successful chase against Peshawar, which landed comfortably over the boundary rope but well within the confines of the outfield, is a good demonstration of how much further back the boundaries could be. Shorter boundaries don’t just mean that some balls go for six rather than four, they encourage batters to take more risks in the knowledge that the odds are tilted just a bit more in their favour than normal.
Then there have been the mismatches in the battles between some high-class batting line-ups and some inexperienced bowling attacks. The Peshawar Zalmi attack that was on the receiving end of two particularly brutal pastings in the space of a few days is notably light in cover. In their defeat to Quetta Gladiators, Peshawar Zalmi stuck to using just five bowlers – Afghanistan overseas spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman was the only bowler to go at less than 10 runs per over. 22-year-old seamer Arshad Iqbal conceded an eye-watering 55 runs off three overs, while veteran left-arm quick Wahab Riaz and all-rounder Aamer Jamal both went at exactly 14 runs an over up against a destructive Jason Roy.
Arshad was not the only player to go at more than 15 runs per over that day with Quetta Gladiators’ teenage speedster Aimal Khan conceding 47 runs from his three overs.
In Peshawar Zalmi’s subsequent defeat to Multan Sultans, Babar Azam’s side were forced to turn to the part-time spin of Saim Ayub, a 20-year-old batter with just three professional T20 wickets to his name at the time. Ayub fared reasonably well as Peshawar deployed his off-spin in favourable match-ups, but it was another tough day for Zalmi’s seamers with Arshad once more going at more than 15 runs per over, as well as Afghanistan all-rounder Azmatullah Omarzai as Rilee Rossouw broke his own record for what was then the fastest ever PSL hundred.
The batting line-ups responsible for the onslaughts have been formidable. The Multan side that posted two of the three highest totals boasts the likes of Rossouw, Mohammad Rizwan, Tim David and Kieron Pollard. Quetta have also twice surpassed 240 – they have a top seven that features six international cricketers – while Zalmi’s top order that contains the promising Ayub, Pakistan captain Babar Azam, Rovman Powell, Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Mohammad Haris have powered them to multiple scores in the 240s. In short, the 2023 Rawalpindi leg of the PSL has seen some top tier batting line-ups up against some imbalanced attacks on small grounds and flat pitches. It’s been the perfect recipe for high scoring.