Sharjah: Captain Mohammad Shahzad struck a devastating, unbeaten 78 as the Paktia Panthers thrashed the Nangarhar Leopards by seven wickets to leave their fortunes hanging in the air before the Afghanistan Premier League (APL) takes a one-day break on Monday.

Chasing a paltry 127 for victory, it was Shahzad leading from the front as the skipper struck four boundaries and eight maximums as the Paktia Panthers waltzed through easily with 32 deliveries to spare. The captain’s knock that came off just 43 balls, lit up an otherwise dreary evening where the Venkatesh Prasad-coached Nangarhar Leopards had stuttured against a concise bowling attack to an unconvincing 126 all out.

With the Balkh Legends already claiming the perch with ten points in the five-team standings with an emphatic 27-run win against Kabul Zwanan earlier in the evening, the night’s second result put the Panthers safely through to the semi-finals with eight points.

With six points, Kabul Zwanan look to be the third team in the last four stages, leaving the Nangarhar Leopards (4 points) and Kandahar Knights (2) to battle it out for the fourth and final spot.

Following Monday’s rest day, the Kandahar Knights are next up against Kabul Zwanan in Tuesday’s only match, while Nangarhar Leopards will take on current leaders Balkh Legends in Wednesday’s early game knowing fully well that only full points will give them any chance of staying in the competition. With Brendon McCullum in their side, the Kandahar Knights have two more games and a better net run-rate compared to the Leopards.

“We lost our momentum in the middle and hopefully the two-day break will help us all refocus and come strong in our final group match on Wednesday,” the Leopards’ opening batsman Anton Devcich said after the match.

“Our bowlers have been doing well, and it has been that the runs have sort of dried up. Hopefully the short break will change our form,” he hoped.

Brief scores

Paktia Panthers def. Nangarhar Leopards by seven wickets: Nangarhar Leopards 126 all out in 20 overs (Rahmat Shah 32, Johnson Charles 22, Ben Cutting 21; Ziaw Rahman Sharifi 3 for 27, Isuru Udana 2 for 14, Shahid Afridi 2 for 27) Paktia Panthers 129 for 3 in 14.4 overs (Mohammad Shahzad 78 not out; Sandeep Lamichhane 2 for 23). Man of the Match: Mohammad Shahzad of Paktia Panthers.