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Adam Lyth keen to seize Multan Sultans opportunity in PSL playoffs

Yorkshire batsman is T20 Blast's leading run-scorer since 2017

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Adam Lyth lines up a reverse-sweep, Yorkshire v Nottinghamshire, Vitality T20 Blast, Trent Bridge, August 31, 2020

Adam Lyth lines up a reverse-sweep  •  Getty Images

When the squads were announced for the Pakistan Super League (PSL) playoffs last week, one name stood out among the overseas players drafted in. While the majority are regulars on the global T20 circuit or have their fair share of caps in limited-overs internationals, Adam Lyth is - perhaps unfairly - best known for his seven-match stint as an England Test opener.
But Lyth's inclusion in the Multan Sultans squad at the age of 33 serves as a reminder of the importance of timing in the franchise world. His signing was championed by Multan's head coach, Andy Flower, who saw his ability first-hand in the Abu Dhabi T10 last winter, but if Lyth had not seized an opportunity the previous winter, he may never have had the chance to impress him.
Lyth's first taste of an overseas league was in 2017, when he spent most of the Bangladesh Premier League on the sidelines and made only 11 runs in the three innings he did play. A year later, he again found himself running drinks, this time for Maratha Arabians as they pushed towards the T10 playoffs.
Consecutive defeats left them fighting it out in the third-place playoff, and finally Lyth got an opportunity. He top-scored with 52 off 24 balls in his only innings, earning him another chance for the following season, and when Flower was signed up as head coach, he happily gave him a run of games to prove his worth. After he put on four 50-plus partnerships with Chris Lynn and scored his runs at a strike rate of 185.39 to help Maratha to win the trophy, Flower jumped at the chance to sign him in the replacement draft for the PSL playoffs.
"They saw what I could do in that last game of the tournament," Lyth explained. "So I got picked up for the same team, and then it was all about picking people's brains for me. You're never too old to learn, and I've learned a hell of a lot playing franchise cricket.
"Andy knows what I can do. I think there's five or six overseas players in our squad [at Multan], so it's not going to be easy to get a game, but hopefully I can take that chance if I can. If I don't, then it's about putting my name in the hat for other franchise competitions around the world, too, and getting the experience of chatting to people, seeing how they go about things, and trying to learn for the rest of my career."
Lyth is assertive about his record as a short-form batsman. "My T20 Blast numbers have been really, really good for the last four or five years," he said. Yorkshire supporters will attest that he is not being fanciful: in fact, since 2017, he is the competition's leading run-scorer with his average (37.74) and strike rate (158.34) demonstrating a combination of consistency and flamboyance.
He has mastered the knack of scoring quickly right from the start of his innings. Across all T20 cricket in the last four years, only the former New Zealand opener Luke Ronchi has a better strike rate in the powerplay than Lyth's 164.84 (min. 500 balls faced), and unlike many of the batsmen topping that particular chart, Lyth has made it out of the powerplay more often than not.
Throw in his fielding - he combined with Aaron Finch to pull off a pair of stunning relay catches in 2014 - and the fact that his offbreaks put him top of Yorkshire's wicket charts last season, and he is a compelling package as a T20 cricketer.
In that light, it seems remarkable that it was not until 2016 - by which time Lyth was 28 - that he was guaranteed a spot in the Yorkshire side. He played the bulk of the 2010 and 2011 seasons with mixed results, but then fell out of the first team in T20, and struggled to score consistently when filling in.
"I played a little bit when I was a bit younger, and then there wasn't really a place for me in the team," he recalled. "In about 2016, I started playing more regularly, and then I've hardly missed a game since then. My game has always been there, but I haven't always been picked for various different reasons."
And does he feel like he is not sufficiently appreciated as a short-form batsman? "Certainly not at Yorkshire. Maybe around the country… I don't know, possibly. But my numbers over the last four or five years in the Blast will be as good as anybody's.
"I'll keep sticking to my strength, which is scoring quickly in the powerplay, hopefully getting out of it, and then putting match-winning scores up, whoever I'm playing for. I'm just enjoying playing as much as I can: T20 is a fantastic game. I love playing it, and hopefully the runs can keep coming."
While Lyth was not a guaranteed selection for Multan, circumstances may again have fallen in his favour following the withdrawals of James Vince and Mahmudullah from their squad due to positive Covid-19 tests. If he does get a chance, it would be a brave call to bet against him.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98