Sharjah: Teenager Qais Ahmad took a career-best five for 18 to lead the Balkh Legends to a four-wicket win over Kabul Zwanan in a low-scoring final and be crowned champions in the inaugural Afghanistan Premier League (APL) at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, late on Sunday.
Chasing 133 for victory at little under seven runs an hour, the Balkh Legends’ cause was well served by Chris Gayle’s 75th career T20 half-century, while the seasoned Ravi Bopara stood tall holding the innings together with a patient, unbeaten 32 as his team reached the target with eleven balls to spare.
Mohammad Nabi, captain of the Balkh Legends with the champions trophy after winning the inaugural Afghanistan Premier League (APL) at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium late on Sunday.
Named by the International Cricket Council (ICC) as the rising star of the national squad following his 14 wickets in the 2018 Under-19 Cricket World Cup earlier this year, it was Qais who struck at crucial blows never allowing the Kabul batsmen to really get their eye in.
After electing to bat first, the Zwanan innings never really took off with 18-year-old Qais in full flow snatching a career-best 5 for 18 to undermine the opponents’ hitherto strong batting line-up.
Javed Ahmadi topscored with 32 off 19 deliveries, while Colin Ingram and Wayne Parnell got an identical 21 runs apiece as Zwanan crawled to an under-par 132 for 9 in their allotted 20 overs.
Needing less than seven runs an over, it was Parnell who nearly derailed the Legends' batting with an early burst that fetched him two wickets in the very first over of the innings and push the opponents on the back foot at two down and only six runs on the board.
But Gayle remained patient – rode on his luck at being dropped on a couple of occasions – bringing up a fourth half-century in this competition to anchor the Legends’ innings alongside Bopara.
But Rashid Khan got the dangerous Gayle in his third over after the strongman from Jamaica had scored 56 in his 34-ball stay and the Legends needing 52 off 54 deliveries.
However, Bopara took the young Ikram Ali Khil under his tutelage and the duo mixed caution with aggression realising a valuable 34 runs for the fifth wicket to take the Balkh side inching towards victory.
Balkh Legends def. Kabul Zwanan by four wickets: Kabul Zwanan 132 for 9 in 20 overs (Wayne Parnell 21, Colin Ingram 21, Javed Ahmadi 32; Qais Ahmad 5 for 18) Balkh Legends 138 for 6 in 18.1 overs (Chris Gayle 56, Ravi Bopara 32 not out; Wayne Parnell 3 for 35).
Man of the Match: Qais Ahmad of Balkh Legends.