Sharjah: The Balkh Legends relied on a superb team effort to pulverize the Nangarhar Leopards into submission winning by a massive 171 runs to enter the final of the inaugural Afghanistan Premier League (APL) at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium late on Friday.
Nabi, who made a breezy 47 off 16 deliveries returned to pick up four wickets at the cost of just 12 runs in 3.1 overs, was rightly adjudged the man of the match.
Electing to bat first, the Legends showed the prowess and depth of their batting amassing a huge total of 235 for 5 in their allotted 20 overs. In reply, the Leopards’ chase ended in a whimper as they were wiped off for a paltry 64 all out in 13.1 overs to complete an utter domination with not even a 20-minute rain break curtailing their momentum.
The second semi-final between the Paktia Panthers and Kabul Zwanan will be played at 8 pm on Saturday with the winner taking on the Balkh Legends in Sunday’s final.
With the towering Gayle in their midst, the Legends looked every bit a classy side. The Jamaican lit up Sharjah early to hand the Balkh Legends the right sort of base with his patient 54 off 30 balls, and then Darwish Rasooli’s 45-ball 78 and Mohammad Nabi’s terrific flourish of 47 from a mere 16 deliveries truly terrorized the inadequate-looking Nangarhar Leopards’ bowling attack.
Like the previous two occasions, Gayle was the standout while putting on 75 for the opening wicket with Rasooli. The Jamaican’s third successive half-century contained nine fours and a couple of sixes to follow-up on his last two knocks of 73 and 80 for the Legends.
Rasooli was content playing second fiddle earlier on. But once Gayle departed, he and Colin Munro smacked 77 off 39 balls to accelerate the scoring. Munro was adjudged leg before to Zahir Khan but that only paved the way for captain Nabi to decimate the Leopards’ bowling with his 47 runs off a mere 16 deliveries including two boundaries and half a dozen sixes.
The Kandahar Leopards, who managed to sneak in as the fourth team following Kandahar Knights’ loss in Thursday’s early match to the Legends, had just three batsmen touching double figures – skipper Cutting (11), Fletcher (13) and Niazai (13).
Balkh Legends def. Nangarhar Leopards by 171 runs: Balkh Legends 235 for 5 in 20 overs (Chris Gayle 54, Darwish Rasooli 78, Colin Munro 33, Mohammad Nabi 47; Ben Cutting 2 for 38, Naveen Ul Haq 1 for 33) Nangarhar Leopards 64 all out in 13.1 overs (Andre Fletcher 13, Ben Cutting 11; Fazal Niazai 13; Qais Ahmad 3 for 18, Mohammad Nabi 4 for 12). Man of the Match: Mohammad Nabi of Balkh Legends.
Saturday’s fixture: (8 pm) Kabul Zwanan vs Paktia Panthers.