What should have been a four-week PSL season ended up exceeding four months, and while there were some real lows for the league, it ended with a high-quality final. Splitting the league into two meant more players took part in the competition than ever before, and while that made picking the best XI tricky, some managed to stand out. Here's ESPNcricinfo's XI for the 2021 season.
Colin Munro (285 runs, 57.00 Avg, 169.64 SR)The Islamabad United's top order looks a little bereft without Luke Ronchi, but fellow New Zealander Munro filled those boots impressively and seamlessly. Despite only being available for the Abu Dhabi leg of the PSL, he hit the ground running, getting United off to several explosive starts. No side scored at a higher rate in the powerplay, and while he got able support from Usman Khawaja, Munro was the primary reason for that. Two innings particularly stood out: a 36-ball 90 which saw United post the highest ever PSL powerplay score and chase down a target of 137 inside ten overs, and an unbeaten 88 off 56 to chase down 191 which sealed qualification for the playoffs.
Mohammad Rizwan (500 runs, 45.45 Avg, 127.87 SR)Rizwan seems to get little wrong in T20 cricket these days, but he doesn't just get into the side for the superb wicketkeeping and brilliant captaincy which led the Multan Sultans to the PSL title. His scintillating form in Karachi saw him post scores of 71, 41, 76, 43 and 66 even as the Sultans struggled to get wins on the board. But he followed up with an unbeaten 82 in Abu Dhabi which got the Sultans' juggernaut going. His stability and consistency at the top - just once in 12 innings did he fail to reach double figures - gave the Sultans a solid platform, allowing their bigger hitters the freedom and license they craved. Not least the man who follows him in at number three, both in the Sultans team and this list..
Sohaib Maqsood (428 runs, 47.55 Avg, 156.77 SR)Maqsood capped off a whirlwind season with the PSL title and a first call-up to the Pakistan side in half a decade. It came thanks in no small part to his devastating form at the top of the Sultans' order, scoring five half-centuries in 12 innings and getting more runs in boundaries than any other player in the league. Some of the shot-making was otherworldly, smashing 59 in a momentum-changing innings against United in the qualifier, before doubling up with an unbeaten 35-ball 65 in the final that saw him named Player of the Match.
Shoaib Malik (354 runs, 35.40 Avg, 149.36 SR)Malik insisted he wasn't done as an international T20I cricketer just yet, and he did his chances little harm in the yellow of Peshawar Zalmi this season. The strike rate stands out, but it was his ability to blend his more conventional anchoring role with all-out attack when necessary that truly impressed. Only three players managed more sixes than Malik's 17 all season, and even if Zalmi ended up second, Malik's personal season finished with 168 runs in the last four games. They included a valiant 28-ball 48 in the final and a 36 ball 68 in an insurmountable chase of 248. Most clinical, though, was an astonishing 32-run onslaught that came off just ten deliveries as Islamabad United were put to the sword in the second qualifier.
Sherfane Rutherford (276 runs, 34.50 Avg, 153.33 SR)The 22-year old Guyanese was something of an unsung hero, but his regular contributions lower down the order gave many Peshawar Zalmi innings the late impetus they required. An unbeaten 18-ball 36 which saw him put Dale Steyn to the sword in a game in Karachi stands out, with the Zalmi chasing down 202 - the highest total run down in the league this season. It was just one of several handy innings peppered throughout the competition, meaning there always danger lurking for the opposition at the tail-end of the Zalmi innings. He would end up hitting the winning runs in a nerve-wracking final over to eliminate the Karachi Kings, and in the end, Munro was the only overseas player who managed more runs than his 276.
Tim David (180 runs, 45.00 Avg, 166.66 SR)There's something about people named David rescuing the Lahore Qalandars from hopeless scenarios that just fits. Perhaps the most out-of-the-box selection, the Singaporean came in to replace South Africa's David Weise for the Abu Dhabi leg, and took the competition by storm. A priceless unbeaten 23 took the Qalandars to a last over victory on his debut, while another undefeated 64 off 36 in the game that followed rescued them from 25 for four, ensuring a ten-run win. While the wins dried up for the Qalandars thereafter, David's contributions did not. He went on to launch an astonishing counterattack that nearly sealed a famous win against the Kings, and ended up as the Qalandars' highest run-scorer in the second leg.
Mohammad Nawaz (6 wickets, SR 26.00, Eco 7.50)Nawaz proved his worth this season as a spin-bowling allrounder with an ability to get his side get out of sticky situations. His side the Quetta Gladiators might have ended at the bottom of the table, but he was among their best performers. Nawaz is the only spinner to have taken 50 PSL wickets, and among the top 12 wicket-takers in the league, no one can boast a lower economy rate than his 7.17.
Hasan Ali (13 wickets, SR 18.38, Eco 6.75)A versatile cricketer, Ali moved from the Zalmi to United this year and became their go-to man. Need quick runs at the death? In comes Hasan Ali. Need a breakthrough? In comes Hasan Ali. Need to tighten up the fielding? In comes Hasan Ali. The heartbeat of the side, Ali kept United pumping all season and made the difference as an allrounder. His 16-ball 45 in the playoffs might have come in a losing cause, but proved his worth to the team. He was handy with the ball too, as he was low on wickets, but rarely conceded more than 30 runs a match.
Rashid Khan (11 wickets, SR 17.45, Eco. 5.46)One of the most celebrated picks this season, Khan was earlier meant to play only two games for the Qalandars but was successfully persuaded to return by the franchise. And he returned to light up the league. His fantastic five-wicket haul - his first in franchise T20 cricket - ripped through the Zalmi in the group stage to make the Qalandars a force to reckon with. He played eight games and won two Player-of-the-Match awards in addition to making some crucial contributions with the bat. He also ended with the best overall bowling economy this season at 5.46.
Shaheen Afridi (16 wickets, SR 15.00, Eco. 7.30)Arguably the world's best new-ball bowler, Afridi regularly provided the magic in the opening over, taking 12 such wickets in the PSL, the highest among any bowler. He picked up five wickets from his first over in 2020 alone, and four more this season to eventually end the tournament as the third leading wicket-taker with a sparkling strike rate of 15.0.
Shahnawaz Dahani (20 wickets, SR 12.10, Eco. 8.42)Dahani burst into the spotlight with a happy face as the Sultans' trump card in PSL 2021, and ended a remarkable season as the leading wicket-taker. Dahani not only provided the breakthrough on numerous occasions, but was also instrumental in containing the runs, as the Sultans went from losing four of their first five games to eventually winning the title. His most memorable performance came against the Qalandars, as he picked up 4 for 5 to bowl the opponents out for 89 in 15.1 overs.
The Sultans' journey carried a lot of Dahani's impact, with his ability not only providing breakthrough in regular intervals but also containing runs. His tremendous 4 for 5 against the Qalandars were the most memorable figures that divested the Qalandars within 15.1 overs to stall all out for 89 runs.
Hazratullah Zazai (212 runs, Avg 42.40, SR 185.96)