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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As it happened – Queensland vs New South Wales, Sheffield Shield final, 1st day
Welcome to our live report for the opening day of the Sheffield Shield final between Queensland and defending champions New South Wales at Allan Border Field in Brisbane. Join us for updates throughout the day.
*Most recent entry will appear at the top, please refresh your page for the latest updates. All times are local.
4.30pm: Closing stages
New South Wales have made a breakthrough, Josh Hazlewood finding the edge of Joe Burns with a terrific delivery, but they are desperate to strike again in the final period of the day. Nathan Lyon has found some big spin early in his spell and Trent Copeland has challenged Marnus Labuschagne.
3.50pm: Starc strains for a breakthrough
The Queensland openers, Bryce Street and Joe Burns, have repelled the early exchanges against the new ball. Street has stood up against Mitchell Starc with the pair sharing a few words after the batter was struck on the chest. There have been a few near-misses – Trent Copeland nearly struck first ball when he squared up Burns – but New South Wales have not yet been rewarded. They need something soon.
3.00pm: New South Wales 143 all out
A superb performance from Michael Neser and Jack Wildermuth has given Queensland control of the final. Neser took the final two wickets after tea to finish with 5 for 27. New South Wales will need to make inroads through the rest of the final session to get themselves back into the game. Having seen the success of the Queensland attack, Josh Hazlewood is the type of bowler who could be a considerable handful if he gets things right.
2.10pm: Tea – New South Wales 8 for 123
It’s not looking great for the visitors on the opening day. Jack Wildermuth ended the afternoon session with two wickets in two balls by removing Mitchell Starc and Sean Abbott. It will be down their bowling attack (a very strong one, it must be said) to keep them in the game.
Here’s Dan Brettig on the day so far
There was always a gambling element to the youthful batting lineup selected by NSW for the Sheffield Shield final, betting on talent over experience to generate enough runs against Queensland. As the Blues ran into enormous trouble on the first afternoon at Allan Border Field, limping into tea at 8 for 123, the balance of the side was cause for some reflection. In several ways, the Blues’ young bats were unable to deal with the pressure of the bowling and the vagaries of a crusty pitch. Matt Gilkes misjudged Michael Neser and was bowled shouldering arms; Jason Sangha’s flying start was ended when he chose the wrong ball to pull; Jack Edwards drove unwisely at a tempting Neser away drifter, and Baxter Holt hung his bat out in a fashion he won’t want to look at on too many replays. With Daniel Hughes and Kurtis Patterson unable to go on to truly substantial scores, it added up to a world of pain for the visitors, even as Mitchell Swepson stood wicketless.
12.55pm: Michael Neser, again
Is there a player more unlucky to not yet have played a Test than Michael Neser? He is such a consistent performer for Queensland and his post-lunch spell has put them in control with him quickly adding the scalp of Jack Edwards to that of Jason Sangha. He has been a regular part of Australia squads for the last two years but hasn’t yet been able to crack into the XI. There’s an argument to say that the selectors should look beyond outright pace, especially on certain pitches. After this match he’s off for a spell with Glamorgan in county cricket where he’s sure to be a threat.
12.35pm: Sangha throws it away
There had been a hint of New South Wales putting the pressure back on Queensland after lunch with a little flurry of boundaries with Jason Sangha, who scored a century in the previous Shield match, being especially positive as he moved along at better than a run-a-ball. However, he then made a costly error when he took on a short delivery from Michael Neser and toe-ended a catch into the leg side to reinvigorate the home side with the ball still moving around.
11.30am: Lunch – New South Wales 2 for 54
It’s been a tense morning at Allan Border Field with New South Wales doing well to be just two down. And there was a touch of controversy with the second wicket with Jack Wildermuth mighty close to a no-ball. Here’s Dan Brettig with a view of session:
An enigmatic surface made for an absorbing start to the Sheffield Shield final. Typically known for being flat as concrete, AB Field this time offered a pitch that was both extremely dry but also offering some green grass. The result was a generous helping of sideways seam movement with the new ball, well exploited by Michael Neser to bowl Matt Gilkes shouldering arms, and very nearly followed up by Jack Wildermuth having Daniel Hughes taken behind – only to see the low edge narrowly missed by a diving Jimmy Peirson. More intrigue was created by a couple of puffs of dust as balls appeared to go through the top of the surface, and there were signs of spin in Mitch Swepson’s exploratory couple of overs before lunch. Whatever happens, the pitch already looks like it will produce a result inside five days.
10.25am: What role for spin?
The Queensland seamers have been excellent so far, but this match also features the two best spinners in Australia: Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Swepson. We’ve already seen one delivery disturb the surface, albeit from a short length, which suggests there will be something for the spinners later.
Lyon has been doing his stuff for seasons, but this summer has been very significant in Swepson’s development – it looked like he was done for the season with a neck injury but has made a timely recovery and in Wollongong earlier this month produced a delivery Shane Warne would have been proud of.
Usman Khawaja explains how Mitchell Swepson became a banker for Queensland
10.00am: Early challenge against the new ball
It’s been a demanding start for the New South Wales top order against the new ball in the hands of Michael Neser and Jack Wildermuth. Neser has provided the first breakthrough when Matthew Gilkes shouldered arms and lost his off stump – it was a beautiful set-up from Neser who had been moving the ball away from the left hander. There has been nibble on offer for both bowlers.
9.30am: Play underway
A nervy start from New South Wales in the opening. Daniel Hughes gets an inside edge into the vacant short leg area then Matthew Gilkes would have been run out with a direct hit. Will be interesting to see how much movement there is with the new ball due to the earlier start.
9.15am: The talking points
New South Wales almost have Australia’s Test attack for this match (just missing Pat Cummins who is at the IPL) but there batting has a far more inexperienced look after changes were made following the 32 all out against Tasmania. However, there are already signs that was the right move. Dan Brettig takes a look at the future.
“The New South Wales selectors had already shown some degree of interest in the future arc of the national team by elevating Pat Cummins to the domestic limited-overs captaincy ahead of Smith. It was a call effectively indicating their preference for who they would like to see named national captain whenever the time comes for Tim Paine to surrender his post – most likely after next summer’s Ashes series, as commentary roles and the release of a memoir await him.
“At the same time, the Tasmania defeat forced a pivot to a far more less experienced batting line-up for the final Shield game against Queensland with a place in the final still to secure. Out went Larkin, Solway and Nevill; in came Matthew Gilkes, Jack Edwards, Lachlan Hearne and Baxter Holt as wicketkeeper. Of this group, Edwards (to turn 21 on the final day of the final) has already been heavily invested in, while Hearne (20) and Holt (21) have been growing ever more impatient for chances to show their wares.”
9.00am: The final act
It’s been a long season – the longest ever – and we’ve reached the final game. Who will take the Sheffield Shield title? It should be a terrific contest with a host of international players on show across both sides.
The early news from Allan Border Field is that New South Wales have won the toss and will bat
Queensland 1 Bryce Street, 2 Joe Burns, 3 Marnus Labuschagne, 4 Usman Khawaja (capt), 5 Matt Renshaw, 6 Jimmy Peirson (wk), 7 Jack Wildermuth, 8 Michael Neser, 9 Xavier Bartlett, 10 Mitch Swepson, 11 Brendan Doggett
New South Wales 1 Daniel Hughes, 2 Matthew Gilkes, 3 Kurtis Patterson (capt), 4 Jason Sangha, 5 Jack Edwards, 6 Sean Abbott, 7 Baxter Holt (wk), 8 Mitchell Starc, 9 Trent Copeland, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Josh Hazlewood
Want to know how things are decided if it’s draw…here are the details
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
How Heath Streak was trapped by a corruptor and nailed by the ICC anti-corruption team
Heath Streak and Deepak Agarwal started chatting on the pretext of organising a T20 league in Zimbabwe, in September 2017. Streak, the iconic former Zimbabwe captain, was the head coach of the national team at the time, and Agarwal, simply a Delhi-based businessman. Agarwal wasn’t yet banned (for two years) by the ICC’s anti-corruption unit from participating in any cricket-related activities – that wouldn’t be till April 2020, after details of his key role in the Shakib Al Hasan corruption breaches emerged.
Agarwal initiated the chats, mainly over WhatsApp, contacting Streak on his personal phone number and email account. Agarwal told Streak that he could “earn some good money” for setting up the T20 league.
The ICC anti-corruption unit’s verdict on Streak, released by the governing body on Wednesday, reveals telling details of the investigation, including that of Agarwal telling Streak that he was “involved in betting on cricket”. Agarwal also asked Streak for details of his bank account “outside” Zimbabwe, which Streak provided readily. “Mr Streak also made it clear in these discussions that he wanted to establish a T20 League in Zimbabwe and was passionate about furthering cricket in Zimbabwe,” the ICC’s investigation said.
Streak’s past as Bangladesh coach exploited
Streak and Agarwal’s relationship began with those T20-league discussions, and would last 15 months until the ACU busted it in December 2018. During this period, Streak served as a coach in Zimbabwe, at the IPL, at the Afghanistan Premier League (APL). But Agarwal also made use of Streak’s contacts in Bangladesh, where he had served as the head coach between 2014-16. And it was the 2017 Bangladesh Premier League, where Agarwal used Streak as a conduit to get inside information on and from active players for the first time.
“In relation to the 2017 edition of the Bangladesh Premier League, Mr X [later confirmed to be Agarwal] asked Mr Streak to provide him with any links, namely team captains, or owners or players, in the BPL, saying they could earn good money as a result which they could invest in a T20 event in Zimbabwe,” the ICC’s investigation found. “It appeared that Mr X wanted Mr Streak to provide him with contacts of players, team owners etc. who Mr X could then approach for Inside Information, such as which team would win a match, in upcoming matches.”
Despite him not being involved in the BPL, the players in question trusted Streak, who had formed and maintained strong one-on-one relationships with many of the Bangladesh players. Streak, the ICC said, provided details of “three players in the BPL (including the details of a national captain), in circumstances where he knew or should have known that Mr X may use these details to contact these players and request Inside Information from them for him to use for betting purposes.” Streak “actually contacted” two of the players himself to “vouch” for Agarwal.
ESPNcricinfo understands that one of these players – the national captain – was Shakib, who in 2019 had been slapped with a two-year ban (one year suspended) for failing to report three approaches from Agarwal.
In November 2017, during the BPL, Agarwal contacted Shakib for the first time. Shakib was representing the Dhaka Dynamites at the time.
While releasing details of the Shakib investigation in 2019, the ICC had pointed out that Agarwal had received the player’s contact details from a person who was close to Shakib. This, the ICC investigation eventually established, was Streak.
In January 2018, when Shakib was playing in the tri-series involving Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Agarwal sent him a message asking “do we work in this or I wait til the IPL“, by which he meant getting “inside information”.
On April 26 that year, during the IPL, Agarwal contacted Shakib, who was then playing for the Sunrisers Hyderabad. It was on the day on which the Sunrisers were playing the Kings XI Punjab in Hyderabad. As well as insider information, Agarwal also broached the topic of crypto-currency and dollar accounts from Shakib, prompting the cricketer to ask the corruptor to meet him in person for the first time.
Shakib failed to report all of this initially before eventually admitting to the charges levelled by the ACU.
Crypto-currency as payment
While it could not be established if that meeting did indeed take place, in Streak’s case the meeting with Agarwal did take place. One of these occasions was in India in 2018 during a personal trip Streak took with his wife. It is understood that it was after this meeting that Streak received the two bitcoins and the phone (a present to his wife) – he did not disclose these details to the authorities until the ACU questioned him.
This is the first time the ACU has come across a corruptor using crypto-currency as a mode of payment. It appears that Agarwal transferred the bitcoins as payment against future coaching assignments for Streak.
As for the expensive phone, it was gifted to Streak during the 2018 Afghanistan Premier League where he had “facilitated the introduction of Mr X to one player and attempted to facilitate the introduction of Mr X to another player”. Agarwal also asked Streak to help him with procuring “inside information” at the APL.
How Streak was nailed
In 2017, a young cricketer from an economically disadvantaged background (from a full-member country), reported an approach from Agarwal to the ACU. It was while conducting that investigation that the ACU became aware of a long-term relationship between Streak and Agarwal. The ACU team analysed the phone interactions and unearthed evidence of the relationship between the two, and used that as the basis to formulate the five broad charges to nail Streak.
One of the charges was that both Streak and Agarwal had scripted their responses to cover for the other before the cricketer was scheduled to meet the ACU team in January 2019. Streak and Agarwal exchanged “a series of WhatsApp messages”.
“Mr Streak has admitted that he and Mr X effectively discussed what Mr Streak should say in the interviews to ensure that they both told the same story (a story which on occasions was not true) and consequently he has admitted that his conduct in so doing could be construed as misleading or obstructing the ACU’s investigation. Mr Streak also sought clarification from Mr X over the interview process and what Mr X had told the ACU on certain matters,” the ICC said.
Confronted with the evidence against him, Streak eventually cracked. “Mr Streak has admitted that, at the instruction of Mr X, he deleted these messages from his phone before he attended the ACU interview, as well as deleting Mr X’s phone number from his phone.”
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo
Had been waiting for such an innings ‘for a long time’
Rizwan, meanwhile, said he felt “the same joy as if I’d done it myself” when Babar reached his hundred
Babar Azam celebrated reaching the top of the ODI rankings with a performance for the ages in the shortest format, scoring his maiden T20I hundred, and the highest score by a Pakistani in T20I cricket. His 122 not only helped his side cruise to victory, but demonstrated a side to his game many had accused him of lacking: that of an opener who could spearhead the chase; his runs came at a strike rate of over 206.
Alongside Mohammad Rizwan, he shared a 197- run opening stand to set up a victory with two overs to spare and nine wickets in hand. Rizwan remained unbeaten on 73 with a strike rate of 155.31, ensuring South Africa’s bowlers had no respite at either end.
“I was waiting for such an innings for a long time,” Babar said after the game. “I planned for it, and felt if I got a chance I would grab it. I am thankful that I was able to deliver. I stuck to my strengths and my game plan was developed around team requirements. If you need 10 an over, you definitely have to play with urgency and for that, you have to take risks.
“The partnership with Rizwan was outstanding. I give him credit for the way he played because it is really tough to play while fasting and despite that, he batted and kept wicket throughout. It takes a lot of courage and guts. The whole team takes inspiration watching him and it brings us confidence.”
Azam continues his T20I form to go along with the ODI touch that has seen him climb to the top of the rankings. He was the second-highest runscorer in the ODI leg of the series, and after becoming the number one ODI batsman, he admitted it had been a lifelong dream.
“It had always been my dream to be number one and that has been fulfilled,” said Azam. “There was lots of hard work, suffering, and sacrifice needed to get there. I have always been trying to improve my game with each passing day, learning new things and applying them. We all know cricket evolves and you have to keep up with it or risk getting left behind.”
Rizwan and Azam’s combination at the top may seem unshakable but is fairly recent. The pair only started opening earlier this year; this was the fifth T20I in which they had opened together. Rizwan said there wasn’t a secret to this success, but underscored the importance of a fast start.
“It’s a big win for us. Chasing 200-plus is always a difficult task but the way we got a start it made it easy for us,” Rizwan said. “We had a simple plan to win the powerplay and we did get more runs than they did in the first six. That momentum carried us deeper which brought us success.
“Since we started playing together, this and the one in Australia are the only two innings in which we have spent time at the crease together. Otherwise either me or him get out and we never got an opportunity to build a bigger stand. We even in between talked about making a world record and Babar was even more positive than me. When Babar scored his 100, I felt the same joy as if I’d done it myself.”
Just months ago, Pakistan’s top order was considered a significant Achilles heel leading up to the World T20. Now, it appears that gap has been conclusively plugged, without requiring either of Sharjeel Khan or Fakhar Zaman to open the batting.
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