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Cheteshwar Pujara, Rishabh Pant, Marnus Labuschagne and Kyle Jamieson moved up the tables

Kane Williamson, who hit 238 in the Christchurch Test, consolidated his position at the top of the ICC rankings for Test batsmen by reaching 919 rating points – the highest ever by a New Zealand player. There was a switch just below him, with Steven Smith replacing Virat Kohli in the second position following the Sydney Test where he was the Player of the Match.

Williamson’s previous best points tally was 915, which he had reached in December 2018, already taking him past Richard Hadlee, the only other New Zealand cricketer to have crossed the 900-point mark (909 in December 1985).

Meanwhile, Smith’s scores of 131 and 81 at the SCG took him past Kohli, who went back home from Australia after the first Test for the birth of his first child.



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PSL 2021 – PCB mulls playing entire PSL in Karachi after recent Covid-19 cases

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The Lahore Qalandars have objected to the idea of not playing the second leg of matches in Lahore

The Covid-19 outbreak in Karachi within the biosecure bubble during the Pakistan Super League (PSL) has prompted the PCB to look at contingencies. The league management is believed to be considering the option of playing the remainder of the tournament in Karachi instead of moving for the final leg to Lahore as scheduled, from March 10. The discussions are only in very preliminary stages – “food for thought” as one official said – but the Lahore Qalandars have already objected to the idea, insisting that fans in Lahore cannot be deprived of the matches and moving from one bubble to another won’t increase the risk.

The PSL was meant to be played at four venues this year but due to the ongoing pandemic, the PCB decided to hold all 34 matches in Karachi and Lahore. The first leg of 20 matches is being played at the National Stadium in Karachi until March 7 and the following 10 league games and four playoff matches are scheduled for Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium. Chartered flights were meant to be used for travel between the two cities.

However, three overseas players – Fawad Ahmed, Tom Banton (who revealed his positive test publicly on Wednesday) and another Islamabad United player – and one support staff member with the Karachi Kings (Kamran Khan) testing positive for Covid-19 have led to concerns. The PCB spoke with all six franchises on Tuesday to remind them of the standard protocols required to maintain the biosecure bubbles.



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PSL 2021 – PCB offers Covid-19 vaccine to all participants

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“The vaccine doses will be administered on Thursday and will be offered to all those inside the bio-secure bubble”

The PCB has offered doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to all participants of PSL 2021. The decision comes as a boost after the recent cases in the PSL which saw three overseas players and a support staff member test positive, which has even made the PCB think about hosting the entire tournament in Karachi. Originally, Karachi and Lahore were scheduled to host this season of the PSL. The decision to offer the vaccine was made in line with the PCB’s duty of care policy and to “ensure all participants of the league remain safe and healthy during the event.”

The PCB is the first cricket board to offer vaccine to its players.

“The vaccine doses will be administered on Thursday and will be offered to all those inside the bio-secure bubble,” a PCB release said. “However, it will solely be the players and officials’ decision if they want to get the vaccine shots.”

The release further said the PCB has been in discussions with the federal and provincial government officials, “highlighting the national cricket teams’ international engagements and commitments as well as the significance, reputation, integrity and credibility” of the PSL.



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PSL 2021 – Usman Khan’s 81 guides Gladiators to first win of season | Cricket

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Usman Khan blasted 10 fours and three sixes during his 50-ball 81 © AFP


Quetta Gladiators 176 for 7 (Usman Khan 81, Dhani 3-44) beat Multan Sultans 154 (Rizwan 66, Qais Ahmad 3-21) by 22 runs

At the 14th attempt, the unthinkable happened: the team that lost the toss and were asked to bat first managed to win a match in the 2021 Pakistan Super League.

Winless in their first four games of the season, Quetta Gladiators were unlikely candidates to break the infamous chasing streak, and it was an unlikely contender who fired them to a defendable total. Usman Khan, making his official T20 debut at the age of 25, hit 81 off 50 balls to lead them to 176 for 7, a total which could and should have been significantly higher but for a stumble in the middle overs.

With the ball, the wizardry of their two main spinners, Qais Ahmad and Mohammad Nawaz, was key, as Multan Sultans became the first side to fall short in a chase despite yet another half-century from Mohammad Rizwan – his third in five innings to date in this tournament.

Usman Khan’s debut fireworks

All of the talk about Quetta Gladiators coming into this season revolved around their top-order batting, and specifically their two platinum picks at January’s draft. In Chris Gayle and Tom Banton, they had a ready-made opening partnership between the one of the GOATs in the shortest format and one of its brightest young talents.

Things have not played out as planned. Gayle played two innings at No. 3 before departing for Antigua, winning a recall to West Indies’ T20I set-up at the age of 41, while Banton was dropped after making nine runs in two innings and watched Wednesday night’s game from self-isolation after testing positive for Covid-19.

In their absence, the unknown Usman was plucked from obscurity and played one of the innings of the season to date. He was last seen playing in the D20 tournament in the UAE in December, having made a couple of first-class appearances for Karachi Whites in October 2017, but was thrown in at the deep end alongside the 18-year-old Saim Ayub and got the Gladiators off to a flying start.

Usman was strong all around the ground, but particularly square of the wicket, with a preference for the leg side. He was particularly punishing against Carlos Brathwaite, whom he hit for 27 in 11 balls including a four and two sixes at the end of the 13th, but his best shot was a clean strike over long-on against Imran Tahir.

Sultans fight back

Tahir was making his first appearance of the season, coming into the side alongside Imran Khan and Shan Masood as Usman Qadir, Shahid Afridi and Chris Lynn were left out. It was an emotional night for him, as he dedicated his first wicket to his close friend Tahir Mughal, who passed away in January following a battle with cancer.

And Tahir’s second wicket, which saw him trap Usman lbw when reverse-sweeping on 81, sparked a mini-collapse. Faf du Plessis had struggled for timing, making a run-a-ball 17 and playing on off Sohail Khan the ball after Usman’s dismissal, and it took a pair of cameos from Azam Khan and Mohammad Nawaz to drag the Gladiators to 176 for 7 after their 20 overs.

Shahnawaz Dhani bowled some superb yorkers at the death, managing to extract movement from the old ball at high pace, but struggled for consistency and ended up conceding 44 from his four overs.

Rizwan’s strong start

Rizwan and James Vince started the chase well, racing to 53 for 0 inside the powerplay to stay level with the required rate as they took advantage of a loose start from the Gladiators’ seamers and feasted on the legspinner Zahid Mahmood. Sarfaraz Ahmed also burned both of his side’s reviews early on.

But Qais and Nawaz came on after the powerplay and immediately put the brakes on. Qais removed Vince in his first over, feathering an edge through to Sarfaraz, and pinned Shan Masood lbw trying to sweep in his second. The four overs immediately after the powerplay brought only 16 runs, leaving the required rate up at 10.8.

Rizwan led the rebuilding job, surviving an optimistic stumping shout from Sarfaraz on 49 but batting with the fluency that has defined his tournament, but Qais struck for a third time as Rilee Rossouw spooned a catch to fine leg. Sohaib Maqsood holed out to long-on, leaving Khushdil Shah as the only real support for Rizwan, and despite an expensive third over from Dale Steyn, the rate continued to look beyond them.

The curse is broken

Mohammad Hasnain made two breakthroughs bowling at high pace in his third over, removing both Shah and Brathwaite, leaving Rizwan as the last man standing. He holed out off Mahmood, who had Sohail caught at long-on a ball later, and should have had a hat-trick but for Ben Cutting’s drop at mid-off. Tahir whacked a six over the covers off Hasnain, but the Gladiators managed to close the game out regardless.

The Gladiators are still bottom of the pile on net run-rate, level on points with the Sultans. Both sides have identical records, having lost four games out of five, and are already in real danger of missing out on the play-offs.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98


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ESPN Sports Media Ltd.






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