Naib’s miserly four for 12 helped Balkh Legends defend 165
Balkh Legends beat the Kandahar Knights by 13 runs on Day Three of the Gulbahar Afghanistan Premier League (APL), powered by Fogg, promoted, conceived and invested by Snixer Sports in association with Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB). On a day that saw Paktia Panthers become the first team to defend a score in the tournament, Balkh Legends joined them with a good display of bowling. Gulbadin Naib was the star with his miserly spell of four for 12
Through the run-chase, Kandahar Knights seemed in control with the openers, Paul Stirling (20) and Brendon McCullum (31) giving them a good start. There was a stutter when Gulbadin Naib was brought into the attack. In his first three overs, he conceded only nine runs and took three wickets, dismissing Stirling, McCullum and Karim Sadiq.
Despite this, the runs flowed as captain Asghar Afghan steadied ship and attacked when needed. Although Balkh Legends sensed a sniff when Karim Janat was out in the 14th over with the score on 100, Asghar remained calm and measured his approach in the middle. However, Najibullah Zadran holed out to the deep off Ben Laughlin and soon after, Asghar was bowled by Aftab Alam, tightening things for Balkh Legends in the 17th over. Still more than 50 runs away from the target, the wheels were coming off for Kandahar Knights.
Gulbadin was brought back for his last over (the 18th) and he delivered by bowling the dangerous Kevin O’Brien to put the game in Balkh Legends’ firm grasp. It was only a formality thereafter with he Kandahar Knights tail playing out the remaining overs, although a few big hits in the last over reduced the margin of defeat.
Earlier, Kandahar Knights won the toss and chose to bowl. It wasn’t the most fluent innings from the Balk Legends, who were guided by Colin Munro’s aggressive 46, which featured four fours and three sixes. Amir Hamza and Waqar Salamkheil were at the receiving end of his aggression as he threatened to power Balkh Legends to a substantial score.
The Balkh innings saw numerous batsmen get starts and move into double figures, but none converted it into big scores. Ravi Bopara was left with the task of building a substantial score and he managed 34, until being dismissed in the slog overs.
At the half-way mark, Balkh Legends were 87 for two and would have aimed for a higher score. But, regular wickets stalled their acceleration plans and they could only end with 165. In the end, it proved more than enough.
Brief scores: Balkh Legends 165 for five in 20 overs (Colin Munro 46, Ravi Bopara 34; Amir Hamza 1 for 23) beat Kandahar Knights 152 for seven in 20 overs (Brendon McCullum 31, Asghar Afghan 45; Gulbadin Naib 4 for 12) by 13 runs.