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Analysis

PSL 2022's Karachi leg: More sixes, higher scores, and a nightmare for fast bowlers

The first half has seen a batting bounty unlike any in six previous seasons but it is all likely to change with the tournament now moving to Lahore

Osman Samiuddin and Shiva Jayaraman
10-Feb-2022
Fakhar Zaman is the highest run-scorer of the season so far  •  Pakistan Super League

Fakhar Zaman is the highest run-scorer of the season so far  •  Pakistan Super League

The PSL has prided itself on being a bowler's league - in as much as any T20 league can delude itself into thinking it is a bowler's league. But it has often looked sniffily at other leagues where fours and sixes have been the currency. Playing out its early years in the UAE, meant it had little choice: slower pitches and bigger boundaries do not a boundary-hitting bonanza make.
So the left-arm fast bowler that is the league's logo has always felt spiritually apt; sure, in the mind at a PSL game, at the crease is poised Babar Azam. But really the league is about the guy running in at him, whether that is Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Naseem Shah or even an old-stager like Wahab Riaz (11 of the PSL's top 15 wicket-takers are pacers).
Until, that is, this season (or more accurately, this half-season).
The Karachi leg of PSL 7 has seen a batting bounty unlike any in its six previous seasons: more boundaries, more sixes, higher-scoring, faster-scoring. Only halfway through the season and already there are more 200+ scores (7) than the entire last two seasons combined (6). This half-season contributes nearly a third of all the 200+ scores ever in the league; there have been two more 200+ totals this season than the first three seasons combined.
Unsurprisingly, this season has been zipping along with the highest batting strike rate in PSL history - a good five runs per 100 balls more than the second-best season.
As does the list of this season's most successful batters: seven openers in the top eight. There's only one batter in that list who has a strike rate of less than 138 and Babar's struggles this season are reflective of his side's.
In the powerplay, compared to last season, fast bowlers have half as many wickets at approximately double the strike rates and averages. No swing, smaller boundaries, truer surfaces have created a perfect storm to neuter fast bowling up front.
Shaheen Afridi's first over to Jason Roy in the last game before the break is a good microcosm. Afridi went full because if there's any swing at all, he's going to get it. There wasn't and Roy cashed in, with 15 runs.
In the next over Afridi pulled back, to just back of a length - a standard response and a length which does better in that phase. Roy drove one on the up and cut the other, both for boundaries. Last season, the strike rate against these lengths in the powerplay was 99.7 and a boundary hit every 7.2 balls. This season it has been 126.5 and a boundary hit less than every five balls. Afridi-Roy was a contest of peak quality of course (one which Roy, by the way, is winning hands down), but it feels as if even at lower levels of quality, a similar story has played itself out.
That story could yet change, given that the conditions in Lahore will be significantly different. More dew is expected which will affect sides defending targets and the temperatures will also be cooler. The surfaces will likely be different too.