Babar’s brilliant April: Top of the ODI batting charts and a T20I record-breaker

Pakistan’s Babar Azam has been voted the ICC’s Men’s Player of the Month for April. We look back on the feats that got him there.

By the numbers

ODIs – 228 runs at 76.00. One century. High score of 103
T20Is – 305 runs at 43.57. One century. High score of 122

Dominating the ODIs against South Africa

Babar has developed a serious fondness for South Africa’s bowling in ODI cricket. He averages 65.37 across his 10 ODIs against the Proteas – the only team he fares better against in the format is the West Indies (89.33).

The 26-year-old continued to thrive at South Africa’s expense in April, as he led Pakistan to just their second ODI series win in the nation.

The skipper was the series’ second-highest run-scorer, making 228 at 76.00 as he took out Player of the Match honours in both victories of the 2-1 win. In the series opener, he scored a fluent 103 off 104 in a chase of 274, setting the innings up perfectly in a 177-run second-wicket stand. He then stepped up in the series decider, making 94 off 82 before falling on the final ball of the innings.

It was a performance that propelled Pakistan to a total of 320/7, 28 too many for the Proteas.

Rise to No.1 in ODIs

The right-hander’s performance in South Africa was enough to lift him to top spot on the ICC ODI men’s batting rankings for the first time in his career.

With that he ended India skipper Virat Kohli’s long reign atop the men’s ODI batting rankings – a spot he had held since October 2017 – and became just the fourth Pakistani player to hold the position.

Given the previous three – Zaheer Abbas (1988-84), Javed Miandad (1988-89) and Mohammad Yousuf (2003) – are all bona fide greats of Pakistani cricket, Babar is in good company.

“Babar continues to mesmerize fans and the cricket world in general with the exhibition of his skills,” ICC Voting Academy member, commentator and former quick Pommie Mbangwa said.

“So stylish is he that anytime he scores runs, and it seems to be always, the compilation of his innings and collection of those runs is a sight to behold.

“That he has got to the top of the ICC ODI batting rankings serves as a reminder that even though being one so young, he is amongst the best there is in the current game. He surely is a master craftsman and a joy to watch.”

Sitting on top of the ODI batting rankings and having previously done the same in T20Is, Babar has now set his eyes on doing the same in Test cricket.

"I feel privileged and honoured to have joined the company of stalwarts like Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad and Mohammad Yousuf, who will always be the shining stars of Pakistan cricket," he said.

"I have also previously topped the T20I rankings, but the ultimate ambition and goal is to lead the Test rankings, which are the real testament and reward to a batsman's calibre, reputation and skills."

A record-breaking T20I masterclass

Babar’s white ball mastery is not limited to ODIs and he showed just that in the third T20I against South Africa.

Across 59 balls of near-flawless batting, he helped himself to 122 runs off 59 balls, hitting 15 fours and four sixes to help Pakistan make light work of a chase of 204.

“The world bats in two ways in white-ball cricket,” ICC Voting Academy member and former Pakistan batter Ramiz Raja said. “One way is to destroy attacks with muscle and force and then there is the Babar Azam way, like conducting a batting symphony with punch, panache and flair.”

His maiden T20I century was the highest individual score ever registered by a Pakistan batsman in the format, eclipsing the 111* scored by Ahmed Shehzad at the ICC T20 World Cup 2014. It also broke Chris Gayle’s record for the highest individual score against South Africa, going past the West Indies’ opener’s 117 in 2017.

While it was the second-highest score in a T20I chase, behind Evin Lewis’ unbeaten 125 against India in 2017, it stands as the highest score in a T20I chase by a captain, breaking Paras Khadka’s 106* for Nepal in 2019.

On 25 April, Babar made further history, becoming the fastest batter to score 2000 runs in men's T20Is. He reached the milestone in just 52 innings, four fewer than Kohli.