Paktia Panthers’ Cameron Delport speaks after his team’s win against the Balkh Legends at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium late on Wednesday. Image Credit: Gulf News

Sharjah: Sri Lankan Isuru Udana picked up four wickets as the Paktia Panthers came up with a true team effort to beat leaders Balkh Legends by 37 runs in their group match of the Afghanistan Premier League (APL) at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, late on Wednesday.

After setting up a challenging 204 for 4 in their allotted 20 overs, the Paktia Panthers’ bowlers came up with a disciplined bowling display with Udana and Zia-Ur-Rahman taking three piece to bundle out the Chris Gayle-included Balkh Legends for 167 with an over to spare.

The left arm fast-medium pacer Udana was the pick of the bowlers as he took the prized scalp of Gayle and the Balkh Legends never really recovered from then on losing wickets at regular intervals.

The result now puts the Balkh Legends, the Paktia Panthers and Kabul Zwanan with an identical four points each after three games apiece.

Needing to score a little more than 10 runs an over, Gayle and Usman Ghani settled in well with Ghani initiating the run flow. Gayle joined in immediately hammering Udana for two back-to-back sixes followed by a boundary, only to see the 30-year-old Sri Lankan quick have the last laugh as he clean bowled the huge Jamaican for 20.

Next change Yamin Ahmadzai struck a second blow to peg the Balkh Legends down further as he had Ghani caught in the deep for 16 to leave the Legends at 38 for 2 and further at 49 for 3 with the departure of the big-hitting Ryan ten Doeschate.

With Ravi Bopara run out after making 23 early in the 12th over, the Balkh Legends stared at a mounting run-rate of more than 13 per over and needing 112 in 50 deliveries with skipper Mohammad Nabi joined by Gulbadin Naib at the crease. The 14th over sent down by Ahmadzai was costly as Nabi milked 20 runs from it, but that proved temporary as his teammate departed shortly becoming Udana’s second caught and bowled victim.

Earlier, it was Mohammad Shahzad and Ihsanullah Janat getting into their stride early while scoring 12 apiece in the second and fifth overs and another 15 in the fourth as the Paktia Panthers raced to 52 for no loss by the fifth.

However, Sunday’s man of the match Naib got the breakthrough when a slower one fooled the Paktia Panthers’ skipper as he holed out back to the bowler. Janat then took over from his captain had left off, scoring at a brisk pace and it was a huge six over long-off that brought up the 100 for the Panthers at the end of the tenth over.

But, Janat did not last long hitting straight to Bopara at long-off after compiling 47 off 28 deliveries including five boundaries and three maximums.

Delport ended the innings with a huge six down long-off as the Paktia Panthers crossed the magical 200-run mark at 204 for 4 with the 29-year-old left-hander from South Africa remaining unconquered on 70 off 48 deliveries, including six huge maximums and a lone boundary.

The final five overs yielded 60 runs mainly due to Delport’s fireworks. But it was skipper Mohammad Shahzad leading from the front while setting up a strong platform for Samiullah Shenwari and Ishanullah Janat to capitalize on with their brisk contributions of 25 and 47 respectively.

Result

Paktia Panthers def. Balkh Legends by 37 runs

Brief scores

Paktia Panthers 204 for 4 in 20 overs (Mohammad Shahzad 42, Ishanullah Janat 47, Cameron Delport 70 not out, Samiullah Shenwari 25; Gulbadin Naib 2 for 46) Balkh Legends 167 all out in 19 overs (Chris Gayle 20, Colin Munro 23, Ravi Bopara 23, Mohammad Nabi 40; Udana 4 for 38, Zia-Ur-Rahman 3 for 34). Man of the Match: Isuru Udana of Paktia Panthers.

Fixtures

Thursday: (4pm) Kandahar Knights vs Kabul Zwanan; (8pm) Nangarhar Leopards vs Balkh Legends.

Friday: (4pm) Paktia Panthers vs Kandahar Knights; (8pm) Kabul Zwanan vs Nangarhar Leopards.