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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

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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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.

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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.”

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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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