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He made 31 not out from 15 balls after his team lost 4 for 12 in 16 deliveries

Brisbane Heat 5 for 150 (Lynn 50, Hatzoglou 2-28) beat Melbourne Renegades 6 for 149 (Webster 50*, Steketee 2-24) by five wickets

A classy innings from Joe Burns guided Brisbane Heat to a nervy win over the hapless Melbourne Renegades in a crowd-less game in Canberra.

The game was moved earlier in the week from Melbourne to Canberra due to the Victorian government’s changing Covid-19 border restrictions on travellers from Brisbane and as a result no tickets were made available for the match.

Burns made 31 not out from 15 balls after the Heat had lost 4 for 12 in 16 deliveries to help his side to their fifth win of the season. Both sides did their best to lose the game. The Renegades had earlier dropped Chris Lynn twice and also dismissed him off a no-ball during his 40-ball 50. But Lynn handed back the momentum at a critical moment sparking a mini-collapse before Burns steadied the ship.

The Renegades had set a defendable total of 6 for 149 on what was a pretty slow pitch. Beau Webster overcame a slow start to finish with 50 not out from 40 balls while Jake Fraser-McGurk made an enterprising 40 from 33. The pair rescued the Renegades after they had slumped to 4 for 59. Matthew Kuhnemann, Mark Steketee, and Morne Morkel bowled 36 dot balls between them and combined for four wickets. Morkel and Steketee were particularly impressive at the death after Kuhnemann had squeezed the Renegades in the middle overs.

Finch at Four

When Aaron Finch batted at No.3 in the Renegades disastrous loss to Perth Scorchers it seemed the experiment of batting the Australia T20I captain and opener out of position might end there. But with Shaun Marsh’s return not only did he not open, he batted outside the top three for the first time in his BBL career and for the first in 91 T20 innings globally. Since batting at No.4 in an IPL game in 2018 Finch had opened in 85 T20 innings and batted at No. 3 six times. In that period, only Babar Azam has scored more runs as an opener, while no one has scored more than Finch’s five centuries. Of the eight openers who have scored 2000 runs or more in the period, Finch has the highest strike-rate and the third-highest average.

Marsh and Mackenzie Harvey opened and when Marsh departed for his first golden duck in BBL cricket, Sam Harper walked out at No.3. Harper and Harvey struck four fours and a six in the powerplay but fell within four balls of each other to leave the Renegades 3 for 36. Finch looked like a fish out of water at No. 4 scoring just 13 off 13 with Kuhnemann tying him down. He was trapped lbw by Jack Wildermuth to a ball nipping back and keeping a touch low to leave the Renegades 4 for 59.

Super Sub

Morkel, with 544 international wickets for South Africa, was called in as the X-factor sub at the 10-over mark for his first game for the Heat and his first game as a local player. As surprising as he was as a sub choice, the move to sub Xavier Bartlett out after he had bowled one over conceding just two runs was equally perplexing. But Bartlett’s struggles at the death in the last game meant the Heat were able to get five overs out of Bartlett and Morkel at a cost of 31. Morkel bowled a Power Surge over and two overs at the death, taking 1 for 29 in his first outing off an ankle injury. Steketee also bowled well in the key overs taking 2 for 24 from four. Oddly, Lewis Gregory did not bowl an over for the innings.

The Renegades were able to salvage a defendable total thanks to Fraser-McGurk and Webster. The pair put on 57 with Fraser-McGurk scoring 40 off 33 including a powerful six of Steketee. Webster, who had been the Renegades’ best batsman last season, was struggling at 22 off 30 but he made up for it scoring 28 off his last 10 balls to reach his first half-century of the season off the last ball of the innings.

Once, twice, three times a charm for Lynn

Lynn was dropped twice during his half-century against Sydney Sixers and he had even more luck against the Renegades. Lynn and Max Bryant had hardly got away from the Renegades scoring at just over a run-a-ball in the chase. Bryant holed out trying to up the ante. Lynn nearly did the same but Noor Ahmad dropped a skier at deep backward square off Jack Prestwidge. The Heat scraped past the Bash Boost target of 71 off the last ball of the 10th over, having taken 13 from Ahmad’s over. Prestwidge then compounded the error. He had Lynn miscue a catch to mid-off with a well-thought-out piece of bowling from around the wicket. The catch was well held, but replays showed Prestwidge had delivered a rare back foot no-ball, and Lynn survived. The free-hit went for four from Joe Denly’s bat. Two overs later, Lynn was dropped again. This time, Peter Hatzoglou was the offender at backward point off Imad Wasim. Lynn reached his second half-century in a row. But he didn’t make the Renegades pay. He chopped on off Kane Richardson trying to flay him on the up through the offside with the Heat still needing 44 to win from 37 balls.

Burns brilliance

Lynn’s dismissal sparked a mini-collapse. The Heat lost 4 for 12 in 16 balls with a swathe of rash shots as the frugal bowling of Imad and Richardson caused some needless panic. But Burns provided a cool head with some help from the Renegades’ inexperienced spinners. Burns struck two fours and a six in four balls without really taking a risk. Hatzoglou dropped short twice and Ahmad tossed one up in the slot for Burns to slog sweep into the empty stands. Burns finished the job in the 19th over with a glorious check drive and then a fortunate thick edge off Richardson. But fortune favours the brave, and Burns deserved every bit of it.

Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne

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




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




“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



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

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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