Why Pakistan are the best T20I team of the last two years


In the last couple of years, Pakistan have been on a roll in T20 internationals. In 26 matches, they have won 22 and lost just four, which is quite a stunning record in a format in which it is generally difficult to string together wins.
Their numbers during this period are not dissimilar to what they achieved in the early days of T20Is. In the period between 2006 and 2009, they won 21 out of 27, losing only five (excluding the Durban tie v India in the 2007 World T20). In between these two periods, from January 2010 to June 2016, they were quite poor; their 39-38 win-loss record was ninth among the top 11 teams but in the last two years, they have turned the magic switch back on.
Graphic: Pakistan’s current T20I streak is reminiscent of the period leading to their World T20 triumph in 2009 ESPNcricinfo Ltd
In both their successful periods, the aspect of their cricket that has stood out is their bowling. In the last two years, they have conceded barely seven runs an over, while nine of the top 11 teams have gone at eight or more runs an over. Their bowlers have also been superb at taking wickets: their average of 18.39 is also the best. The numbers and their rank, in terms of run-rate and economy rate, are similar in both periods.
Their phase-wise bowling numbers indicate that they are the best team in the first six – both in terms of economy rate and average – while in the middle overs, they are second to Afghanistan, whose numbers are propped up by the sort of opposition they play. Out of 18 matches played by Afghanistan in these two years, 12 have been against teams outside the top 10 in the ICC T20I rankings.
In the first six, especially, Pakistan are well clear of the field, going at just 6.5 runs per over, while the next best is India’s 7.94. In terms of averages too, the gap between Pakistan and the next best – 26.38, by India – is huge.
Graphic: Pakistan’s bowling has been streets ahead of the rest in T20Is over the past two years Datawrapper/ESPNcricinfo Ltd
The table below shows how potent Pakistan’s leading Powerplay bowlers have been in these last couple of years: most of them have combined wickets with superb economy rates. Mohammad Amir has taken only four wickets in 22 overs, but has gone at under six runs an over.
Similarly, in the middle overs too, Pakistan’s slow bowlers and seamers have been exceptional. In fact, the five bowlers who’ve bowled 100-plus balls in the middle overs all have superb numbers in terms of economy rate and wickets. Shadab Khan has been the standout bowler with 28 wickets, the most by any bowler in the middle overs in this period.