Balkh Legends favourites against Nangarhar Leopards in first semi-final of APL T20 2018

Table toppers Balkh Legends have been consistent through the tournament and would eye a spot in the final

Gulbahar Afghanistan Premier League (APL) T20, powered by Fogg, invested and promoted by Snixer Sports in association with the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB), moves into the knock-out phase with the Balkh Legends taking on the Nangarhar Leopards on Friday, October 19. Balkh Legends have clearly been the best team in the tournament and deserve their spot at the top of the table. Nangarhar Leopards have shown flashes of brilliance but consistency has eluded them. Past history has little value in the knockouts as a good day for any team can seal the deal.

Having said that, it is obvious that the Balkh Legends are the favourites. Chris Gayle has found form at the perfect time and is their trump-card going into this game. Colin Munro and Dilshan Munaweera will compete for the other opener’s spot and it will be interesting to see who they pick. In the middle order, Darwish Rasooli and Mohammad Nabi have provided the punch. Ryan ten Doeschate and Ravi Bopara add the much needed stability.

Mirwais Ashraf has proven to be very valuable with his medium-pace and backs the pace-bowling attack comprising Aftab Alam and Gulbadin Naib. Qais Ahmed has been in top form as a spinner. Balkh Legends have a set combination that has worked well for them through the tournament. They wouldn’t tinker with it much and back this setup to come good against Nangarhar Leopards.

On paper, Nangarhar Leopards have everything to succeed in this tournament. Anton Devcich has been in form upfront, Johnson Charles is a dangerous batsman and Hashmatullah Shahidi’s presence in the middle order adds value. Andre Fletcher’s arrival has added more punch to the top-order. Ben Cutting adds much needed balance to this team with all-round abilities. Mitchell McClenaghan is a proven T20 performer and Naveen-ul-Haq has also done well. With Zahir Khan and Mujeeb-ur-Rehman handling the spin department, Nangarhar Leopards boast of a formidable bowling attack. Yet, the consistency is lacking as they have only done well in patches.

In their two meetings in the tournament, they have shared the honours with a victory each. Nangarhar Leopards managed to scrape through to the semi-final thanks to Kandahar Knights’ defeat. A new day brings with it new and exciting possibilities. If Nangarhar Leopards play to potential, this would be an exciting game.