Sharjah: Mirwais Ashraf claimed three wickets in four balls as the Balkh Legends joined Kabul Zwanan at the top of the table with an identical six points following a clinical 25-run win over the Nangarhar Leopards in Thursday’s low-scoring late night match of the Afghanistan Premier League (APL) being played at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

Defending a paltry 143, the Balkh Legends bowlers kept things tight for the Nangarhar Leopards batsmen while bundling them for 118 in 19.1 overs. With skipper Mohammad Nabi leading a disciplined bowling pack despite going wicketless for 31 runs in his four overs, it was Ashraf who hogged the limelight while sending down a concise 18th over that changed the complexion of the match.

Chasing down a paltry-looking 144 for victory, the Nangarhar Leopards’ batting wilted at crucial intervals despite maintaining the asking run-rate of a little over seven runs. At 93 for 4, the Leopards needed exactly 50 in the last six overs.

Devcich, who had done well in their losing cause against Kabul Zwanan last Tuesday, stood among the stuttering innings with a well-constructed 48 off 44 including four boundaries and a couple of sixes. But Devcich became Ashraf’s first victim, while Cutting and Mitchell McClenaghan followed in the next three deliveries to puncture the Leopards’ march towards a certain-looking victory.

With icon player Andre Russel flying back home after a recurring hamstring injury kept him from playing here, it was down to Devcich and Cutting to smoothen out a chase that was made difficult due to some disciplined bowling from the Legends.

Russel, who was scheduled to captain the Nangarhar team, is going to replaced by right-arm medium-fast bowler from Queensland, Nathan Rimington for the remainder of the tournament.

The Balkh Legends now join Kabul Zwanan at the top of the five-team table with six points after four games apiece, while the Nangarhar Leopards remain in fourth with two points. The Kandahar Knights are yet to open their account after playing three games. The best four of the five teams qualify to the semi-finals to be held on October 19 and 20.

Earlier, the star-studded Balkh Legends batting led by Gayle collapsed for the second time on the trot as the made their way to 143 for 7 in their allotted 20 overs. Dutchman Ryan ten Doeschate topscored with a patient 35 and Colin Munro made 33, while Gayle and Mohammad Nabi’s 20 apiece saw the Legends finally recover from an early slide to set up a competitive total.

Mitchell McClenaghan took two wickets for 36, while Mujeeb-Ur Rahman struck twice in one over to end with tight figures of 2 for 19.

Brief scores

Balkh Legends def. Nangarhar Leopards by 25 runs: Balkh Legends 143 for 7 in 20 overs (Colin Munro 33, Chris Gayle 20, Ryan ten Doeschate 35, Mohammad Nabi 20, Gulbadin Naib 17 not out; Mitchell McClenaghan 2 for 36, Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman 2 for 19) Nangarhar Leopards 118 all out in 19.1 overs (Anton Devcich 48, Hashmatullah Shahidi 23; Mirwais Ashraf 4 for 19, Aftab Alam 2 for 26, Gulbadin Naib 2 for 10). Man of the Match: Mirwais Ashraf of Balkh Legends.

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