World T20 Top Five February 23, 2016

Master blasters and rocket scientists

Big hitters and yorker specialists lead the pack in our look at high-impact players over the history of the World T20

One of the five wickets Malinga took in the 2012 tournament against England © AFP

Lasith Malinga
(38 wickets, SR 16.2, Econ 7.43)

Malinga may be a little past it by now, but his arrow-straight fast yorkers have been a defining feature of the five World T20s to date. To those he added a slower bouncer and a slow, dipping full toss in 2009. Malinga is the tournament's leading wicket-taker, with 38 wickets in 31 matches. One over from the 2012 tournament, when he ripped out three top-order England wickets in four balls summed up his influence.

And two to follow: Umar Gul took 3 for 30 against Bangladesh in the 2014 World T20 © AFP

Umar Gul
(35 wickets, SR 14.1, Econ 7.30)

Much like Malinga, Gul can bowl toe-crushers and swing the old ball. In the 2009 semi-final, where he was only brought on at the death, Gul nailed six yorkers in the 17th over of the chase. The highlight performance came against New Zealand when he claimed scarcely believable figures of 3-0-6-5. He took 13 wickets in seven matches in that tournament, the same as he had done in the inaugural World T20.

Afridi is top of the World T20 all-round performance table © AFP

Shahid Afridi
(456 runs, SR 149.50; 35 wickets, SR 20.40, Econ 6.62)

Pakistan's title-winning 2009 campaign began with them imploding against England, which meant they had to beat Netherlands by at least 25 runs to make the Super Eights. They finished covered in glory, when Afridi aced the chase of 139 in the final with a controlled 54 not out off 40 balls, instead of the more familiar madcap blitz. In the semi-final, he cracked the first legit ball he faced over mid-on, on his way to a quick fifty, before bowling Herschelle Gibbs and AB de Villiers. No one equals Afridi for all-round impact in the tournament - he is the only player to have scored more than 400 runs and picked up more than 20 wickets.

Quiet by his standards: Gayle's top score in the 2014 World T20 was 53 off 35 against Bangladesh © Getty Images

Chris Gayle
(807 runs, SR 141.82)

How could we leave out the #Worldboss? Gayle got the tournament underway in 2007, smashing 117 off 57 balls, the first ever T20I century. He produced a similarly violent display in the next tournament, where his 88 off 50 against Australia included six massive sixes, one of them into a school next door, and one onto the stadium roof. Gayle then shelved his slap-happy disposition to helm a sinking ship against Sri Lanka in the semi-final, becoming the first batsman to carry his bat in a T20 international. He now needs only one maximum to tick off another first: 50 sixes in World T20s.

KP's last four scores in his final World T20 tournament, in 2010, were 73 not out, 53, 42 not out, and 47 © Getty Images

Kevin Pietersen
(580 runs, SR 148.33)

Five years before talk of "New England" took hold, Pietersen led the charge as his team veered from safety first to attack first, in the 2010 World T20. The reward was England's first major limited-overs title. Pietersen's flamingo flick off Dale Steyn during his 33-ball 53 was one of the abiding images of the successful campaign. He holds the highest strike rate among batsmen to have made more than 500 runs in the tournament.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo