Breakdown of Batsmen’s Numbers in Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2020/21
It is no secret that batsmen reigned supreme in Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2019/20, but QeA 2020/21 saw a return to form for the bowlers. While batting wasn’t as hard as, say, the QeA Trophies from 2016-19, you still needed to toil for your runs; in short, a likable balance was struck between bat and ball.
Ten batsmen scored in access of 700 runs in the competition. In this article, we will touch upon a few of them and explore how, when, and where they scored their runs. A few things to note before we begin…
A batsman’s position in the batting order is important. A few factors could influence why a batsman would feel comfortable batting at one position rather than another. One could be situational; a batsman who bats normally at number 5 is not used to facing the new ball early on in his innings and may struggle if he bats in the top 4. Concurrently, some top 4 batsmen wouldn’t be comfortable playing down the order, where they are at times required to play at a faster pace, as they may be batting with the tail. A batsman could merely average better at a certain position because they just happened to hit a rich vein of form while batting there. And finally, it could be purely psychological, just a result of circular reasoning.
The Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2020/21, due to the pandemic, was held in just four grounds in Karachi. Pitches differed from ground to ground; we observed that while pacers would take most wickets at National Stadium and SBP Sports Complex, spinners would thrive at UBL and NBP Sports Complex.
A team’s first innings sets the tone for their match, while their second innings is them finishing the job or salvaging the game. In this edition of the QeA Trophy, we observed that the majority of wickets taken by the pacers (64.2%) would be taken in the first innings, while spinners would be more of a factor as the games go on and the pitches wear out.
Cricket is ultimately a team game. Thus, it is unfair to judge individual players by their team wins or losses. Especially in the longer format of the game, much has to go right apart from one man scoring runs for a team to win; as the format gets shorter, individual brilliance is more likely to have a bigger impact. That being said, the results of the game can indicate the nature of the pitch. Obviously, a draw would indicate a pitch that was suited to batting, while a win, loss, or tie would suggest a more sporting wicket.
With all that out of the way, let’s take a look at the top run-scorers of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2020/21.
Kamran Ghulam – Runs and Lots of Them (Just Let Him Bat at #4)
Kamran Ghulam now holds the record for the most runs ever in any edition of Pakistan’s premier First Class competition. He did that by averaging in excess of 40 at all the grounds he played at. His favorites were the ones where pacers have thrived – NSK (average of 61.0) and SBP SC (average of 111.7).
Kamran had an indifferent start to the season, where he initially batted at No.5. Until Round 6, he had 362 runs at an average of 36.2 – better than the average batsman but only just. He was struggling to convert his starts into bigger scores. In the ten innings leading up to Round 6, he had crossed 20 eight times and 40 six times. In Round 6, Kamran batted at number 4, and something clicked. His next four scores were 153, 16, 166, and 160 – safe to say his conversion problem was solved.
The number 4 position has been an interesting position in this QeA Trophy. While you would normally expect it to be the run-making position, only one other batsman has averaged 50+ batting there (min. 10 inns); Kamran has averaged 104.6. Nearly 20% of the runs scored by batsmen batting at #4 this season have come off Ghulam’s bat. He has 412 runs at an average of 34.3 when not batting at #4, one could equate to him hitting form at the right time, but in the one match after Round 5 where he moved to #3, he scored 20 and 14. In the next game, he was back at #4, and his next four scores were 107, 51, 76, and 108.
Ghulam’s innings break up is also interesting. He has 918 runs at an average of 83.5 while batting in the first innings, but only 331 runs at an average of 36.7 in the second. There is not much need to panic as it’s still above average for a batsman batting in the second innings this season. Since his run of form in Round 5, he has 189 second-innings runs at an average of 47.3, culminating in a second-innings century in the final.
Kamran seems to be more comfortable against pace than spin. It would explain why he has been dismissed more by spinners this season than pacers and would explain his “poorer” averages (42.0 at NBP SC and 48.9 at UBL) at dominant spin grounds. Overall, he is an exciting prospect and should be looking forward to his likely Test/Shaheens call up.
Saud Shakeel – King of Spin
Saud Shakeel, according to many, missed out on selection on Pakistan’s tour of New Zealand. Like any good sportsman, he didn’t crib and weep; he just went out and scored a bucket load of runs wherever he could.
In many ways, Saud was the opposite of Kamran Ghulam. While Kamran averaged more at pace-dominant grounds, Saud averaged more at spin-dominant grounds. It is their innings break up, perhaps, where Saud suffers. While Kamran’s second innings numbers can be excused as a run of poor form and a struggle to convert, Saud’s first innings numbers are disappointing when looked at closer.
In the first innings, Saud Shakeel has 334 runs at an average of 33.4. A majority of those runs came in two drawn games where he scored 142 and 81. In games with results, he has scored 64 first innings runs at an average of 12.8. His poor returns could be attributed to the fact that he may not be as comfortable against pace as he is against spin; his batting position doesn’t help that. Batting at number 3, he has often had to come in early to face the new ball and has perished to early movement off a fresh pitch. If he were to bat lower, his first innings returns might have been better.
In the second innings, however, he is a major asset to have in your team. He has 636 second-innings runs at an average of 90.8, with an average of 127.0 in result games. True to form, Saud has been dismissed more times by pacers than spinners this QeA Trophy.
Everything points to Saud being perhaps the best player of spin in the country; however, his batting at #3 this season has magnified his problems against pace. He is still in line for an international call up with his consistent run-scoring in previous seasons hard to ignore. Still, one would hope that the national team will ease him into the batting line up rather than throw him into the deep end by batting him at No. 3 in international cricket.
Salman Ali Agha – A Madman Comfortable Everywhere
Sindh had set Southern Punjab a target of 370 with four sessions left in the game. Walking in with the score at 152 for 3 with roughly 60 overs left in the day, a sane man would’ve put his head down and started the blockathon, but as the title tells you, Salman Ali Agha is not that type of guy. He proceeded to hammer 100 off 112 deliveries and brought his team to the doorstep of victory as Southern continued their (now unsuccessful) title charge.
It was an innings that has typified Salman’s approach this season. He finished the season with not only 941 runs at an average of 58.8 but an SR of 75.8 to boot. Needless to say, no batsman has more runs at a higher strike rate.
Salman also doesn’t have a skewed innings break up. He has 536 first-innings runs at an average of 53.6, and 405 second-innings runs at an average of 67.5. His SRs don’t widely differ from innings to innings either – 77 in the first and 75 in the second.
He has 418 runs at spin-dominant grounds at an average of 52.3 and 523 runs at pace-dominant grounds at an average of 65.4. He has been shuffled up and down the order; this season, he has batted at #3, #5, and #6. His lowest average is 44.9 at No.5. Agha has been a major contributor to his team wins with 317 runs at 52.3, but he doesn’t go missing when they lose either – he has 342 runs at 42.3 in losses. His two not outs have inflated his average in draws to 142.5, but the total runs are only 285.
It is unfortunate that Kamran’s record-breaking season and Saud’s hype have overshadowed the fact that Salman Ali Agha has had one of the all-time great seasons. He may miss out on selection, but he has been unfazed by anything this season has thrown at him, and that is mighty impressive.
Usman Salahuddin and Asad Shafiq – Polar Opposites
One of these men has played 70 Tests while the other seems destined to be a one-Test wonder – destined to be a trivia question, a fleeting memory. Usman Salahuddin has 273 runs in 11 inns where he has batted at #4 or below; that’s an average of 24.8. Central Punjab depended on him this season with the departure of many of their First Class stars for various reasons, but he initially disappointed, and they had a bad start to their season.
However, he seemed to become a different batsman when he batted at #3 with 651 runs at an average of 81.4 in 10 innings, including a double century that set up the win against Southern Punjab, which would take them to the final.
Meanwhile, Asad Shafiq batted in the top 4 for Sindh in 12 inns and returned 329 runs at an average of 36.6. A middling return that you could excuse, maybe even praise if from a rookie, but disappointing from a 70-Test pro. Later on in the season, Asad moved down the order. When he batted outside of the top 4, he scored 419 runs in 7 inns at an average of 83.8. This seems to be in conjunction with his international record, where he had an enviable record batting at #6 but seemed to struggle when moved up the order.
Mohammad Nawaz and Hammad Azam – Crisis Men
The numbers tell us that Northern had the worst top 4 of the competition, with the RPI of batsmen batting in the top 4 a lowly 27.2. The fact that they still managed to compete is down to them having the best lower order of the competition.
Hammad Azam has 592 runs at an average of 49.2 whenever he has walked into a situation where Northern is in trouble. This Northern side has put up six 100+ partnerships in the entire season, with the highest being a mammoth 294-run partnership between Hammad Azam and debutant Mubasir to draw a game at National Stadium, Karachi. Out of the six 100+ partnerships, five have been for the 4th wicket or lower; Mohammad Nawaz has been involved in four of these.
Hammad has been more gung-ho in his approach, with his 846 runs this season coming at an SR of 68.6 and an average of 52.9. Mohammad Nawaz has adopted a safety-first method for his 744 runs at an average of 49.6 and SR of 58.7.
Hammad Azam has now been a consistent performer in FC cricket for five years, averaging over 45 with the bat but seems to be ignored because he bats lower down the order, and his bowling is thought to be ineffective on flatter tracks. However, if he keeps showing up in the top 5 run-scorers of the QeA Trophy, he will be difficult to ignore for much longer.