CPL XI: Ali Khan, Glenn Phillips, and a familiar cast

In a season that produced so many superstar performances, it was no straightforward job for the ESPNcricinfo staff to decide on the best XI. After much deliberation, here's our all-star team of the season:

1. Glenn Phillips (wk) (Jamaica Tallawahs)

The New Zealand wicketkeeper's landmark performance of the season - a 63-ball 109 with nine fours and six sixes - unfortunately came in a losing cause in the eliminator against St Kitts and Nevis Patriots, but he finished as the season's second-highest run-scorer with 457 runs at 41.54 with a strike rate of 146.94.

The opener struck two more half-centuries and a couple of 40s to pilot Tallawahs through the season. He led the six-hitters chart with 29. His hundred, incidentally, was only the second by an overseas player in the CPL, and his performances through the season would surely pique the interest of scouts and franchises from around the world.

2. Chris Gayle (capt) (St Kitts and Nevis Patriots)

In a weak field of opening batsmen apart from Phillips, Gayle slots in as the second opener with 283 runs at a strike rate of 120.42 in ten innings.

With his partner Evin Lewis misfiring, Gayle had the burden of helping Patriots rebuild through the season. Gayle's 65-ball 86 against Guyana Amazon Warriors was the highlight of his season. He was Patriots' highest run-scorer, and his astute captaincy in a team of young cricketers also makes him the captain of our CPL all-star XI.

3. Colin Munro (Trinbago Knight Riders)

No batsman had ever gone past 500 runs in a CPL season before. Colin Munro's 567 runs at an average of 51.54 and a strike rate of 140.34 for the three-time champions shattered all CPL records. His 54 fours were the season's highest and his six half-centuries in 13 innings helped Knight Riders storm through the league-phase as table toppers. Munro's own batting position varied this season as Knight Riders used as many as six opening combinations.

Munro's 56-ball 90 against Amazon Warriors in the league stage was his most exciting performance of the season, but he'll be most remembered for an unbeaten 68 off 39 balls in the final, also against Amazon Warriors, in a tricky chase.

4. Shimron Hetmyer (Guyana Amazon Warriors)

The exciting left-hand batsman was one of two players who made "Warrior Nation" proud, finishing as the season's third-highest run-scorer with 440 runs at a strike rate of 148.14. He batted at No. 3 for his team, and followed up a promising show for West Indies last month with a hundred and two half-centuries in the CPL.

His unorthodox batsmanship floored pacers and spinners alike, and Amazon Warriors benefited with his consistent scores in the second half of the league phase and eventually finished as runners-up. Hetmyer's 49-ball 100 against Tallawahs was the only time Amazon Warriors went past 200.

5. Rovman Powell (Jamaica Tallawahs)

The allrounder's hard-hitting abilities were underutilised by Tallawahs, as they preferred to slot Powell in as a lower-order batsman, below more traditional batsmen like Ross Taylor and Andre McCarthy, but he still finished with 329 runs at an average of 54.83.

The big turnaround for the Tallawahs came midway through the season when they failed to chase 157 despite losing only three wickets against Barbados Tridents. That forced the management to push Powell up at No. 4 and he delivered with 64, 35*, 84 and 55* in four consecutive innings to take the Tallawahs into the playoffs. He finished with a strike rate of 162.06, second only to Knight Riders' Dwayne Bravo's 188.28 (minimum six innings).

6. Darren Bravo (Trinbago Knight Riders)

In past seasons, Darren Bravo teased everyone with glimpses of his breathtaking knocks, but it was in CPL 2018 that the swashbuckling left-hand batsman actually came to the fore as a backbone of Knight Riders' batting in their season-winning campaign.

He lifted Knight Riders from 71 for 3 by smashing an unbeaten 36-ball 94 to chase down St Lucia Stars' 212 for 2 early in the season, and followed it up with another match-winning 35-ball 50 against Tallawahs. Bravo efficiently played the role of finisher, ending with 353 runs and four not-outs. He was the only player among the top five run-scorers who struck more sixes (24) than fours (17).

7. Andre Russell (Jamaica Tallawahs)

Nobody, apart from Andre Russell of course, can claim the record of taking a hat-trick and smashing a ton in the same T20 match.

Much like Powell, Russell was slotted in much lower than where he should've batted, and finished with a season tally of 163 runs. But his 14 wickets, third-highest among pacers, at a strike rate of 13.7 comfortably makes him the best option as the team's leading allrounder. He did well as captain too, particularly when the Tallawahs were on the field.

8. Oshane Thomas (Jamaica Tallawahs)

Only 21, right-arm pacer Oshane Thomas lit up the tournament in his maiden CPL appearance, taking 18 wickets at an average of 17.66.

Thomas was Tallawahs' primary wicket-taking weapon, collecting at least one scalp in each of his ten matches. He consistently clocked upwards of 145, and took a wicket every 12.6 balls. Thomas' 3 for 39 in his very first CPL match and 3 for 43 in his last game summed up the youngster's debut season.

9. Fawad Ahmed (Trinbago Knight Riders)

In a season where there was no Rashid Khan or Shadab Khan, there were question marks on whether legspinners would make a mark this time, but Fawad Ahmed crushed all doubters with 22 wickets to top the wicket-takers tally.

He was the main wicket-taker for Knight Riders in the middle overs, and did not concede more than 29 runs except in the one game. In a crunch match against Barbados Tridents, Fawad's 3 for 28 ensured Knight Riders finished in the top two of the league table, after which he produced a breathtaking spell of 3 for 13 in the second qualifier to take his side into the final. Fawad varied his speeds and lengths, and was one of the few bowlers to achieve continuous success with the wrong 'un this season.

10. Ali Khan (Trinbago Knight Riders)

Ali Khan, the Pakistani-origin fast bowler who now represents USA, is the only player from an Associate country to make our all-star XI. Chosen as a gamble by Knight Riders in a squad that possessed more experienced bowlers, Ali led the champions' pace attack, often finding the early breakthrough to set up their slower-ball specialists.

He was a crowd favourite, and while Ali did not produce any Man-of-the-Match performance, his wicket-taking abilities helped Knight Riders defend their title. His 3 for 22 against Warriors may be Ali's best performance of the season, but it was his first-ball wicket against the same opponents in the CPL final - he finished with figures of 1 for 20 from four overs - that set the tone for his team's triumph. Originally though it was a slice of luck that allowed Ali to participate in the tournament; he was initially ignored in the draft but was brought in as an overseas player to replace Ronsford Beaton, who withdrew while working to remodel a suspect action reported in December 2017. He finished with 16 wickets, the second-most among fast bowlers.

11. Imran Tahir (Guyana Amazon Warriors)

Imran Tahir's experience of representing various franchises all over the world came into play this season as he single-handedly carried Amazon Warriors into the final. His 16 wickets, the second-highest among spinners, came at an economy of 5.91.

It was his bowling effort that more often than not decided whether Amazon Warriors won a game or not. The two times he went wicketless, Amazon Warriors failed to win the match. Tahir's best performance was his 4 for 22 against Patriots in Basseterre, and a surge in his form in the second half of the season helped Amazon Warriors produce a late charge in the league phase and sneak in with a top-two finish on the points table.