Qais Ahmed’s five for 18 setup Balkh Legends’ win over Kabul Zwanan in the final
Balkh Legends have been crowned champions of the inaugural Gulbahar Afghanistan Premier League (APL) T20, powered by Fogg, invested and promoted by Snixer Sports in association with the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB). Led by Qais Ahmed’s five-for, Balkh Legends restricted Kabul Zwanan to 132 and then sealed the title with a successful run-chase at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
The two semi-finals saw the teams batting first posting huge totals and a lot was expected of Kabul Zwanan when they chose to bat first. Although Luke Ronchi and Hazratullah Zazai looked positive at the outset, both fell inside five overs. Colin Ingram and Wayne Parnell tried to resurrect ship with a steady partnership but fell in quick succession to leave Kabul Zwanan at 65 for four in the 11th over.
Kabul Zwanan still had a lot of firepower in the middle-order but Qais prevented any hopes of a big total. He had Parnell bowled as he tried to reverse sweep in the 11th over. Kabul Zwanan recovered a touch to get to 108 in 15 overs before Qais then returned to run through the dangerous middle-order. Laurie Evans, Javed Ahmadi and Rashid Khan fell to his spin. Ahmadi, the top-scorer with 32, looked threatening but his promising knock was nipped in the bud. Qais then completed his fifer by dismissing Muslim Musa. Thereafter, Kabul Zwanan could only manage to get to 132.
In response, Balkh Legends lost Colin Munro and Darwish Rasooli in the first over off Parnell. Kabul Zwanan needed those early wickets to have any hope. They managed to maintain the pressure over the next few overs, as they kept Chris Gayle and Ryan ten Doeschate quiet. Balkh made only 30 runs in the powerplay, their lowest of the tournament. Considering the occasion and the fact that they had lost early wickets, it wasn’t unbelievable.
In the sixth over, Rashid dropped a chance of Gayle at long-on, which would have put Kabul Zwanan in a good position. Everyone knows the importance of Gayle’s wicket. However, in the next over, ten Doeschate edged one off Musa to the wicketkeeper. Kabul Zwanan could still see the ray of hope.
Gayle continued to try his luck and managed to find the boundaries. Parnell nearly dismissed him off a tough chance, but by then, Gayle was in his elements and completed his fifty in 32 balls. The partnership with Bopara calmed the nerves and put Balkh Legends on the path to victory. Gayle dominated that stand. Out of the 50 runs, Bopara only scored seven.
Gayle was ultimately dismissed for 56 when he found the man at long-on off Rashid, but that seemed too late. The damage had already been done. Bopara knocked it around calmly to take Balkh Legends through to the title. Kabul Zwanan fought by taking a few wickets even as Balkh Legends were on the brink but without the runs on the board, it was a futile effort. Gulbadin Naib hit the winning runs with a six over long-on.
Brief scores: Kabul Zwanan 132 for nine in 20 overs (Javed Ahmadi 32; Qais Ahmed 5 for 18) lost to Balkh Legends 138 for six in 18.1 overs (Chris Gayle 56, Ravi Bopara 32 not out; Wayne Parnell 3 or 35) by four wickets.