Sharjah: Kabul Zwanan thrashed Paktia Panthers by a convincing 90 runs in the second semi-final to set a meeting with the Balkh Legends in Sunday’s final of the inaugural Afghanistan Premier League (APL).
Chasing 193 for a win at nearly ten runs an over, the Panthers started on the wrong foot with their captain Mohammad Shahzad — carrying a groin injury — the first to fall in the fifth ball with just a couple of runs on the board.
That slide continued as successive batsmen failed to negotiate the Zwanan bowling led by the star Rashid Khan, who claimed two wickets in his very first over to totally dent the Panthers’ chase.
With wickets falling at regular intervals, it was Pakistan star Shahid Afridi who tried to salvage some pride while coming up with a few lusty blows. But he too departed in the eleventh over leaving the Paktia Panthers tottering at 70 for 7 to be ultimately bundled out for 90 in 14.5 overs with Rashid Khan returning with figures of four for 20 in 3.5 overs.
Earlier, captain Rashid Khan proved his utility with the bat with an unbeaten 35 runs off just 19 deliveries to see Zwanan reach a challenging 192 for 9.
Khan paid special attention to Isuru Udana lifting the Sri Lankan medium pacer on three occasions in the final over as Zwanan scored 65 runs in their last five overs.
The first five overs fetched Zwanan 47 runs, while the second and third part of the innings got them 40 runs each before that final assault from captain Khan to inch towards the magical 200-run mark.
Zwanan openers Luke Ronchi and Hazratullah Zazai started off in right earnest with the Kiwi leading the charge putting up 14 in the opening over itself.
But the Panthers stuck to a plan and it was Calum MacLeod holding on to a well-judged catch to send back Ronchi before bringing up a second sensational diving effort at square leg to get Wayne Parnell.
Tahir Khan then got rid of the dangerous Hazratullah Zazai off his very first delivery to leave Zwanan precariously at 55 for 3 and then to 87 for 4 at the end of the tenth over.
Colin Ingram and Laurie Evans cautiously worked their way with healthy contributions of 44 and 31 runs respectively. Ingram’s topscore came off 27 deliveries and included five boundaries and two maximums, while Evans’ 31 runs came off 21 balls.
Rashid Khan then lent the innings a final flourish as Zwanan reached 192 for 9.
Kabul Zwanan def. Paktia Panthers by 90 runs: Kabul Zwanan 192 for 9 wickets in 20 overs (Colin Ingram 44, Laurie Evans 31, Rashid Khan 35 not out; Zia Ur Rahman 2 for 36, Isuru Udana 2 for 57, Shahid Afridi 2 for 25) Paktia Panthers 90 all out in 14.5 overs (Shahid Afridi 27, Cameron Delport 19; Rashid Khan 4 for 20, Muslim Musa 2 for 17). Man of the Match: Rashid Khan of Kabul Zwanan.
Sunday: Final (8 pm) Balkh Legends vs Kabul Zwanan at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.