Pakistan’s 'FIB'ulous Top-Order Making Heads Turn In ODI Cricket

Fakhar, Imam, and Babar have been in red-hot ODI form of late and have been contributing heftily to the team’s cause.

Pakistan’s top-order scored 87% of the team’s runs, barring extras, in the recently concluded ODI series against Australia. The trio of Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, and Babar Azam put together 676 runs in the three-match series, averaging a staggering 96.6 and striking at nearly 103. This is the second-highest runs tally by a team’s top-order in a three-match ODI series.

But this is not the first time these three have come together to wreak havoc on the opposition. Earlier last year, they put the South African bowlers to the sword in the latter’s own backyard, compiling 662 runs at 73.6 and striking at 101 – the third-highest runs tally by any top-order in a three-match series.

In fact, if we glimpse across the board and see how Pakistan’s top three have fared compared to the rest of the teams’, it’s quite clear that Pakistan’s top-order has done fairly well during this period. Despite playing lesser matches than England and South Africa and even West Indies, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, Pakistan’s top three have scored significantly more at an average of just over 50. There have been 26 top-order hundreds from Pakistan in this period, which is the 2nd highest tally following India’s 36.

In the previous graphic, it could perhaps be argued that despite averaging in excess of 50, the combined strike rate of Pakistan’s top three could have been better. Well, they have shown substantial improvement in that regard ever since the 2019 World Cup. In the 14 matches that Pakistan have played since the mega-event, the top-order (primarily comprising of Fakhar, Imam, and Babar) has struck at 96.7 (better than India and Australia and slightly behind England’s 99.2) without compromising on the stellar average of 61.4 (no other top three in this period have averaged more than 47). They have been head and shoulders above every other team.

Just how heftily have Pakistan’s top three contributed to the team’s cause since Imam’s debut is quantified in the bar plot above. This, more than anything else, illustrates the central role that Fakhar, Imam, and Babar have assumed as far as Pakistan’s ODI batting is concerned.

While there have been other players who have played in the top three for Pakistan during this period, it’s this world-beating trio that has now etched its permanent spot in the side, at least for the near future. Haris Sohail promised a lot at number 3 but he has had his issues with recurrent injuries. Abid Ali has faded away from the limelight of white-ball cricket with his cardiac health a cause of concern as well. Shan Masood has done fairly well in recent times but he’s still very much a backup option, for now, as Imam has taken center stage and performed superbly to cement his place.