The obsession with T20 cricket leagues and big hitting is something cricket fans cannot do without. Most major Test playing nations in the world have a T20 league of their own and fans flock in to watch the ball sail to them in the crowd.
There are so many T20 leagues at present that it is easy to forget that the format in itself was first played internationally just 12 years back. Wait, what? Surely, that must be the IPL, not T20 cricket in itself. No, it is just 12 years since the inaugural T20 International match between Australia and New Zealand took place. The first T20 game at the domestic level was played just two years prior to that when Hampshire and Sussex trialed the England Cricket Board's concept of a three-hour 20 over each game.
T20 cricket has united players in a way that no format has done before. It has increased the flow of revenue to several nations and provided a livelihood to innumerable fringe players. But is it too early to identify a Bradman or a Tendulkar in T20 cricket? Probably not. We have the Maxwells, Dhawans and Gayles. But not many are that popular despite performing well in the format. With South Africa touching English shores for a three-match T20 series, we take a look at the unsung T20 heroes from these countries.
#5 Alex Hales
The flashy England opening batsman is in his sixth year as a T20 international player and is now the second highest run-scorer for his team in the format. With 1304 runs in 46 matches at an average of 32.60, Hales has carved out a name for himself in the format. He remains the only England player to have scored a T20I hundred, having lambasted Sri Lanka en route to a 116* in the World T20 in 2014.
Asie from the hundred, Hales also scored a 99 against West Indies way back in 2012. His T20 career started with a duck against India but progressed rapidly since then as he changed the face of England's T20 batting with his belligerent strokeplay.
Given his exploits, which include six sixes spread across two overs in the NatWest T20 Blast against Birmingham, it is no surprise that Hales is among the pioneers of England's ODI renaissance.
#4 Tim Bresnan
Not many remember the hustling Tim Bresnan, who used to be a permanent fixture for England across formats. While his Test record in itself is admirable, his best for England came in the T20 format. Having made his debut in 2006 in T20s, Bresnan represented England 34 times in the format until his final match, which England lost to the Netherlands in the 2014 World T20 in Chittagong.
More than just numbers, Bresnan was an impact player for England in T20s. He was a pretty handy batsman down the order and also a good death bowler, dishing out yorkers and slower balls at will.
Bresnan played a pivotal role in England's World T20 win in 2010 in the Caribbean. He finished his career with 24 wickets in the format aside from some handy cameos with the bat at a strike rate above 120.
#3 Ryan Sidebottom
The noodle haired fast bowler who created his legacy at Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire in the County circuit was a pretty good T20 player for England. Sidebottom has 23 wickets in 18 T20I matches, including 10 in England's World Cup winning campaign in 2010.
He boasts of an average of 19 in the format aside from a miserly economy of 7.14. The left-arm seamer was at his best during the 2010 World T20 and played a huge role in victories over South Africa, Pakistan, and Australia in the finals. While his First-class exploits with Yorkshire are well known, he remains an unsung hero in T20s for England.
#2 JP Duminy
The cheeky South African middle order batsman might be in the news for all the wrong reasons due to his Test and ODI exploits, however, he is without a doubt a hero for his side in T20s. A flamboyant batsman who loves to attack from ball one, Duminy is South Africa's leading run-scorer in the format with 1683 runs at an impressive average of 38.25.
That he also has the most sixes in the format for a South African speaks a lot about the impact the off-spinning all-rounder has had. Despite his Test and ODI form waning, Duminy is a force to reckon with in T20s.
A fantastic 68* off 34 balls with seven sixes in a chase of 200 against India in Dharamsala last year is a testimony to Duminy's finishing skills in T20s. He also has 17 wickets at an average of 29.76.
#1 Loots Bosman
Very few remember swashbuckling Loots Bosman who opened for South Africa in T20s from 2006-2010. While his appearances were few and far between, Bosman created quite a stir with his aggressive batting, in contrast to his partner Graeme Smith's approach.
Bosman was involved in a world record opening partnership of 170 with Smith against England as his team compiled a huge 241. Bosman fell on 94, missing out on what would have been just the second T20I hundred at the time.
He never kicked off after a disastrous World T20 campaign in 2010 and was soon out of the team. However, with 323 runs in 14 games at an average of 24.84 and a scintillating strike rate of 147.48, Bosman was an unsung hero for the Proteas in his time in national colors.