55 runs, 44 balls. That was Sarfaraz Ahmed’s contribution in Pakistan’s win over favourites England.

On paper, it does not look bad. He walked in to bat in the 33rd over and got some crucial runs. But if you look at the runs scored by Pakistan on the other end and you will understand why Ahmed’s innings was a frustrating one.

A total of 117 runs were scored off the bat with Sarfraz at the crease, he scored 55 of those at 7.5 RPO, while his partners scored 62 runs in 43 balls at 8.65 RPO, a run over the rate Sarfaraz was scoring his runs. And Ahmed’s numbers could have looked worse had it not been for the overthrows England gifted him.

There has been a debate as to what should be the Pakistan captain’s position in the batting order. Sarfaraz Ahmed believes that his best position in the batting order is 6 – he has batted in 17 out of the 30 innings he played since being made skipper – he averages 28.45 batting at 6, scoring those runs at 4.93 RPO.

Those aren’t flattering numbers for a number 6. He himself sees the position as the best fit for him, but is it really the best position for him? Is it truly the position where he can do well for Pakistan? Is it the position which uses his skill set best?

Between the two World Cup’s, the number 6 batsman walks in with 18 overs in hand on an average [in games between the top ten sides]. This batsman should be able to rotate the strike and give much-needed momentum in the death overs. The skill set for a number 6 should include strike rotation, so he can be score as many runs as possible, and big-hitting prowess. And for now, Ahmed doesn’t have the skill set of a number 6 batsman.

Ahmed has, at best, a limited skill set.

Among the 78 top-order batsmen to have scored 500 or more runs in games between the teams participating at the World Cup, Ahmed is behind 93.5% of all batsmen, he scores just 31.05 boundary runs per 100 balls which is 12 runs below the average top order batsman at the World Cup who scores 43.06 boundary runs per 100 balls.

Another stat which signifies how poor Ahmed is when it comes to scoring boundaries is balls per boundary, he scores a boundary every 13.23 balls – has to be noted that he has just scored six 6s since the 2015 WC, so the returns per boundary ball is very low – his Balls per boundary number is 8th worst among the 78 batsmen. So clearly Sarfaraz Ahmed can’t hit them big, he can’t score boundaries consistently and he can’t even score a 6 at will.

Worst Boundary Hitters

Player Boundary Runs Per 100 balls
LD Chandimal (SL) 21.06
HDRL Thirimanne (SL) 21.42
Imam-ul-Haq (PAK) 28.57
SD Hope (WI) 29.60
GJ Bailey (AUS) 29.89
Sarfaraz Ahmed (PAK) 31.05
JN Mohammed (WI) 31.13
AD Mathews (SL) 31.25
Azhar Ali (PAK) 32.33

Ahmed best trick is scoring runs off the ball he can’t get away for boundaries, he is the third best batsman among the 78 when it comes to strike rotation, scoring 0.64 runs per non-boundary ball behind Peter Handscomb and AB De Villiers.

Best Strike Rotators

Player Non Boundary Strike Rate
PSP Handscomb (AUS) 0.70
AB de Villiers (SA) 0.67
Sarfaraz Ahmed (PAK) 0.64
JC Buttler (ENG) 0.64
MS Wade (AUS) 0.62
JE Root (ENG) 0.62
SO Hetmyer (WI) 0.61
NLTC Perera (SL) 0.61
V Kohli (INDIA) 0.61
DA Miller (SA) 0.60

Strike rotation is his strong suit, but at the point which he walks in to bat it’s not the most important skill set a batsman needs. But up the order with more balls left in the innings, with a significant chunk of the middle overs left strike rotation is very important. Middle overs is also a phase in the game where a batsman’s lack of boundary hitting skills do not matter much cause the boundary scoring within this period is a bit lower than the powerplay and the death overs.

A look at Ahmed’s scores of 50 or more since the World Cup is good enough to understand his best batting position for Pakistan. His average point of entry has been after 118 balls of the innings, which means close to 30 overs of the innings left, which gives him enough time to milk the bowlers in the middle overs, also the phase where his boundary-scoring ability (or lack of) isn’t a huge issue.

Sarfaraz Ahmed's 50+ scores since CWC15

Point of Entry (Balls Faced) Runs BF Opposition
140 77 74 v Sri Lanka
110 64 76 v England
144 55 58 v England
19 105 130 v England
83 90 73 v England
202 60 47 v West Indies
101 61 79 v Sri Lanka
194 51 46 v New Zealand
99 64 69 v New Zealand
18 97 80 v England
197 55 44 v England

Pakistan is a very limited side in terms of talent and they need to plan well to cover the talent gap they have with other sides. Using the best batsmen for the best situation is one way to gain an advantage in games, ensuring Ahmed bats more in the middle overs is one way to do it.