NBA postpones another two games, 11 players test COVID-19 positive

San Antonio Spurs’ Keldon Johnson passes the ball during their game against Golden State Warriors on Jan. 20, 2021. (USA TODAY Sports/Reuters)
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Updated 21 January 2021

NBA postpones another two games, 11 players test COVID-19 positive

  • Contact tracing leaves the Grizzlies without the league-required eight players available
  • The professional basketball league had already beefed up some protocols

LOS ANGELES: Memphis’ NBA game at the Portland Trail Blazers scheduled for Wednesday has been postponed with the Grizzles depleted by coronavirus contact tracing, the league said.
The league also postponed Friday’s Washington Wizards-Milwaukee Bucks game because of similar Covid-19 health and safety rules.
The 16th and 17th such postponements of the season came on the day the league announced that of 502 players tested for Covid-19 since January 13, 11 new players had returned a confirmed positive test.
The league’s coronavirus protocols require anyone who tests positive, or who is identified as coming in close contact with an infected person, to isolate or quarantine.
Contact tracing left the Grizzlies without the league-required eight players available for their scheduled game at Portland.
The Grizzlies had announced Sunday that Jonas Valanciunas was sidelined after entering the league’s Covid-19 health and safety protocols. He missed Memphis’ victory over the Phoenix Suns on Monday.
Wednesday’s game between the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets had already been postponed. The Wizards will miss a sixth straight game on Friday as they remained unable to put eight players in uniform.
Of the 17 games postponed so far since the NBA season was launched on December 22, 16 have been called off since January 10.
The league triumphantly concluded its pandemic-disrupted 2019-20 campaign in a quarantine bubble in Orlando, but this season teams are hosting games in their home arenas as the United States continues to grapple with Covid-19.
ESPN reported Wednesday the league had advised teams it would station security officers near midcourt to remind players they should not hug or exchange handshakes, or engage in lengthy conversations with opposing players before or after games.
The league had already beefed up some protocols, such as requiring players to wear masks whenever they return to the bench area during games.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said the league would not try to jump the queue to have players vaccinated before priority groups including health care workers, the elderly and those with medical conditions.
However, he said Tuesday that the league has now discussed having players, the majority of whom are African American, getting the vaccine as a way of promoting its use in the Black community.
“There have been discussions,” Silver said at a virtual conference hosted by Sportico.


Diriyah E-Prix night race will be ‘historic’ occasion: Prince Khalid

Updated 26 February 2021

Diriyah E-Prix night race will be ‘historic’ occasion: Prince Khalid

  • 2020-21 Formula E season opening double-header to run on Feb. 26-27

DIRIYAH, Riyadh: It is all systems go for the 2020-21 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship season as the first of the Diriyah E-Prix double-header of races on Friday prepares to get under starter’s orders in Riyadh.

History will once again be made when the single-seater series, given championship status by the FIA for the first time, takes place at night over the weekend.

“Formula E is back to Diriyah as the opening race of season seven, and to mark a world first, as the first ever night race in the history of Formula E,” Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, told a virtual press conference.

“On Feb. 26 and 27, the whole world will yet again watch the Kingdom host a global sporting spectacle, under the guidance and support of our government, one that followed every detail and offered all the leadership and support needed to ensure all logistical and health measures are applied at the highest global standards, despite the ongoing challenge that the world is facing due to (the coronavirus disease) COVID-19, and its huge impact on the sport industry,” he said.

Diriyah, the ancient UNESCO heritage site on the outskirts of Riyadh, was the first seat of power for Saudi kings, and today has quickly become home to several records in the world of motorsports.

In 2018, the site hosted the first all-electric race in the Middle East and welcomed international sports tourists for the first time.

In 2019, Diriyah once again captured headlines as the iconic venue hosting the opening weekend of season six, featuring a double-header of back-to-back races for the first time. And now season seven is poised for another first under the bright lights and in the spotlight of global sporting attention.

“Hosting the race at night and utilizing the best available technology to ensure its success is a clear evidence that our leadership gives sport the utmost priority and shows the close connection between sports and the sustainable future which will be headlined by clean renewable energy. It will be a historic race,” added Prince Khalid.

Lighting the track with the latest low-consumption LED technology will reduce energy usage by up to 50 percent compared to non-LED technologies. The remaining energy needed to power the floodlighting will be fully renewable provided by high-performing low-carbon certified hydrogenated vegetable oil made from sustainable materials.

Formula E CEO, Jamie Reigle, said: “We are looking forward to the start of season seven, and what a way to start with the first ever night race.

“We had our priorities set on ensuring a safe race with all COVID-19 guidelines in place, but also focused on how we can make this year’s races even better with the high bar that the previous Diriyah E-Prix races have set.

“Of course, our utmost priority is always about sustainability and ensuring that the future of car racing is environmentally friendly. The sustainable night lights will ensure breathtaking scenes to everyone watching at home and a new, exciting experience to the teams and drivers,” he added.

Reigle described Formula E’s partnership with the Ministry of Sport and the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation as “brilliant,” and he thanked them for their support in helping to make the race become a reality.

Meanwhile, Carlo Boutagy, founder and CEO of CBX, the official race promoter, said that organizing the first night races had been an “amazing experience,” and promised memorable television viewing.

“Diriyah looks beautiful as always, the night lights are in place, the safety measures are all set and working. We can’t wait to go green in Diriyah this Friday to organize a spectacle unlike any other.

“We will surely miss the fans, but their safety comes first, so we made sure they enjoy an unmissable experience while watching the races live on KSA Sports this weekend,” Boutagy added.

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Cricket crowds in Karachi increased to 50% for Pakistan Super League games

Updated 25 February 2021

Cricket crowds in Karachi increased to 50% for Pakistan Super League games

  • The decision means around 19,000 fans could go to National Stadium to see country’s premier Twenty20 cricket league
  • Government also allowed cricket board to fill Gaddafi Stadium Lahore to 27,000-seat capacity for four playoffs this month

ISLAMABAD: The 14 remaining round-robin matches of the Pakistan Super League at Karachi had their attendance increased from 20% to 50% by the Pakistan Cricket Board on Thursday.
The decision meant that around 19,000 fans could go to the National Stadium to see the country’s premier Twenty20 cricket league.
The government also allowed the board to fill Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore to its 27,000-seat capacity for the four playoffs this month.
But the PCB said it would first assess spectators at Karachi before raising the crowd capacity to 50% in Lahore, which hosts the last 14 games from March 10.
“We will continue to assess how the crowds follow and implement the (coronavirus protocols) before we make a decision on crowd attendances for the Lahore-leg matches,” PCB chief executive Wasim Khan said.
Khan urged spectators to wear masks, maintain social distancing, and regularly use hand sanitizers inside the stadium.


Islamabad beats Karachi in high-scoring PSL game 

Updated 25 February 2021

Islamabad beats Karachi in high-scoring PSL game 

  • Left-handed Sharjeel Khan plundered eight sixes and nine fours in his 105 off 59 balls 
  • Lahore Qalandars and Islamabad share the leaderboard with two wins from as many games in the six-team event 

KARACHI: Islamabad United overcame a blistering century by Karachi Kings opener Sharjeel Khan to record their second successive victory in the Pakistan Super League on Wednesday.
The left-handed Khan, who scored only six runs in the first six overs, plundered eight sixes and nine fours in his 105 off 59 balls to give defending champions a strong total of 196-3.
But the depth in Islamabad’s batting, led by Iftikhar Ahmed’s unbeaten 49, and an early onslaught by Alex Hales (46 off 21 balls) helped the former champions cruise to 197-5 for a five-wicket win in 19.1 overs.
“It was obviously a really big chase and I thought we had to knock the teeth out of it early,” Hales said. “I felt like the pitch was getting slower as the game went on, so my plan was to be really attacking in the Powerplay, get the run rate below 10 and fortunately that worked tonight.”
Hales set up a strong platform for Islamabad by smashing fast bowler Aamer Yamin for 29 runs in only the third over — the most expensive over bowled in the history of PSL.
Hales was caught out at mid off in the sixth over, but the Englishman’s clean hitting had provided a solid base of 75 runs inside the batting powerplay.
Iftikhar and Hussain Talat (42) then combined for a match-winning stand of 94 runs off 67 balls as Karachi’s fast bowlers couldn’t get the breakthrough, with Mohammad Amir (1-44) returning with expensive figures.
Afghanistan’s experienced Twenty20 allrounder Mohammad Nabi (1-26) pegged back Islamabad’s run-chase through his offspin in the middle overs before Asif Ali finished off the game with a rapid 21 off nine balls.
“You don’t lose the tournament if you lose the second game so it’s just the start of the tournament,” Karachi skipper Imad Wasim said. “I think we’ll rectify the errors and come back very hard.”
Earlier, after being put into bat, Khan and Pakistan all-format skipper Babar Azam featured in a PSL record-breaking 176-run opening wicket stand against the erratic Karachi bowlers.
Khan forced Islamabad United captain Shadab Khan out of the attack by smashing the legspiner for four successive sixes in the ninth over but Karachi’s bowlers overstepped at least three times which could have broken the partnership.
Babar was twice caught off Hussain’s no-balls in one over and Karachi also missed out to dismiss Khan on 70 when fast bowler Mohammad Wasim overstepped.
Both batsmen fell on successive deliveries in the penultimate over of Hasan Ali (1-36), but not before Karachi erred once again in the field.
Hales dropped a sitter of Babar at long-on before throwing the ball in time to run out Babar, who went for the second run. Babar made 62 off off 54 balls with six fours and a six.
Khan was trapped leg before wicket off the next ball when Hasan successfully overturned the decision through television referral.
Lahore Qalandars and Islamabad share the leaderboard with two wins from as many games in the six-team event.


England collapse to 112 all out in India pink-ball test

Updated 25 February 2021

England collapse to 112 all out in India pink-ball test

  • Patel, who recorded his second haul of five or more wickets in just his second test

AHMEDABAD, India: Spinner Axar Patel claimed six wickets as India skittled out England for 112 on day one of a crucial day-night third test in Ahmedabad on Wednesday.

Patel, who recorded his second haul of five or more wickets in just his second test, combined with Ravichandran Ashwin to end England’s innings in 48.4 overs in the world’s biggest cricket stadium.

India’s innings witnessed a power cut with most of the new LED lights at the revamped stadium going off for two minutes after which play resumed.

India reached five for no loss at dinner with Rohit Sharma, on five, and Shubman Gill at the crease.

Gill survived a scare when he was caught at second slip off fast bowler Stuart Broad but replays suggested that Ben Stokes had grassed the ball while taking the catch.

Earlier Zak Crawley top-scored with 53 after England elected to bat first. Captain Joe Root (17) Ben Foakes (12) and Jofra Archer (11) also got into double figures.

The England batting fell apart after fast bowler Ishant Sharma, playing his 100th test, struck first with the wicket of Dom Sibley for nought in the third over of the day.

Crawley put on 47 runs with Root for the third wicket to put up some resistence but Ashwin claimed the England captain with his off spin.

Root reviewed the call but replays showed the ball would have hit the top of leg stump and he left the field to the loud cheers of the home crowd.

England took tea at 81 for four and wickets kept falling in the second session.

Foakes stood guard for 58 balls before Patel bowled the wicketkeeper-batsman to wrap up the innings. Ashwin took three wickets.

England, looking to bounce back from a 317-run defeat, have brought back their pace duo of James Anderson and Archer in the team.

The four-match series is level at 1-1.


Mohammad Hafeez declines PCB central contract offer 

Updated 24 February 2021

Mohammad Hafeez declines PCB central contract offer 

  • Hafeez was the world’s top scorer in Twenty20 internationals last year
  • PCB chief executive says disappointed but fully respects Hafeez's decision

ISLAMABAD: Twenty20 specialist Mohammad Hafeez has declined a central contract offer from the Pakistan Cricket Board.
The allrounder “politely turned down” a contract offer in category C for 2020-21, the cricket board said Wednesday.
“While I am disappointed, I fully respect his decision,” PCB chief executive Wasim Khan said in a statement. “Hafeez has been one of our star performers of the season and we hope he will carry the form and momentum to Africa.”
Hafeez was the world’s top scorer in Twenty20 internationals last year, but he didn’t feature in the recent Twenty20 series against South Africa after failing to join the team in its bio-secure bubble in time.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan and lefthanded batsman Fawad Alam got promotions in the updated list of central contracts after their impressive performances last year.
Rizwan joined all-format captain Babar Azam, Azhar Ali and Shaheen Afridi in category A while Fawad, who had earlier only a domestic cricket contract, was elevated in category C.
Since the contracts were announced in May last year, Rizwan is the leading scorer for Pakistan in test matches with 529 runs in seven matches and 325 runs in Twenty20 internationals.
Alam, who was recalled to test matches last year after a 10-year absence, scored centuries in test matches against New Zealand and during the home series against South Africa.
The decision to promote players was taken by the PCB after Khan met with the chairman of selectors Mohammad Wasim and reviewed players’ performance during the 2020-21 season