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|Ikram Ali Khil||2||2||0||0||100.00|
The Balkh Legends secured their place at the top of the Afghanistan Premier League table after beating the Paktia Panthers convincingly. They will now face Kabul Zwanan in another top of the table clash as they aim to open out their lead over everyone else. The task is not going to be easy, though, as Kabul Zwanan is a very competent team with plenty of match winners on its own.
These are the two best teams in the competition and we believe that they are going to be in the hunt for the title as the competition winds down.
A complete performance against the Paktia Panthers helped demonstrate the difference between the Balkh Legends and the next best team at the point in the competition. Now the Legends have the opportunity to prove their dominance again against Kabul Zwanan.
The Balkh Legends have taken a pretty tried and trusted formula in T20 cricket by loading their batting with overseas stars and backing the local talent to do the job on the bowling front.
Batsmen like Chris Gayle, Colin Munro, Ryan Ten Doeschate, and Ravi Bopara are all capable of winning matches on their own. The Legends are hoping that at least one player among them is going to come good in every match.
Last time around it was Ryan Ten Doeschate who played his second match-winning knock of the season. He scored 74 off just 41 balls and propelled the Legends to a score that was well above par. Colin Munro got a start, Ravi Bopara got some runs, but it is Darwish Rasooli from Afghanistan that would have pleased the Balkh Legends fans.
He is a young Afghan batsman that showed the ability to clear the boundaries with ease. His presence in the top-order could add more balance to an already strong side.
The bowling unit was helped by having such a big total on the board but there was no question about the quality they bring. Mohammad Nabi, Aftab Alam, Mirwais Ashraf, Gulbadin Naib, and Qais Ahmad are all quality Afghan bowlers.
They did not give away any easy deliveries and kept attacking the batsmen all the time. We think Qais Ahmad is being used a bit sparingly by the Legends because he has the ability to pick wickets and slow down the opposition in every single match.
Overall, this is a strong side that has found its balance and should stick the same playing combination.
Chris Gayle, EMDY Munaweera, Darwish Rasooli, MN Waller, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Ikram Ali Khil, Mirwais Ashraf, Qais Ahmad, Ben Laughlin, Abdullah Mazari.
Three wins from five games have been a good return for Kabul Zwanan so far although they would feel that they could have won at least one of the matches they lost. The batting unit for Kabul is very strong thanks to the form that Laurie Evans and Hazratullah Zazai have shown so far.
Both of these players have scored runs consistently, particularly Evans, and ensured that Kabul does not have to worry about being outscored by the opposition. Laurie Evans got out early in the last game and the other batsmen in the middle order were unable to pick up the slack.
This dependence on just a couple of players should concern the Kabul management. Luke Ronchi scored some runs in the last match and that will be a huge plus. Ronchi definitely has the capability to take the game away from the opposition by going hard from the word go. We sometimes wonder about how invested he is in the team’s well-being but as a professional on the T20 circuit, it is in his interest to score runs consistently.
With players like Colin Ingram, Javed Ahmadi, and Shahidullah in the side as well, Kabul Zwanan will fancy going toe to toe with the Balkh Legends on the batting front.
The bowling for Kabul has been a bit problematic. The side has struggled to restrict runs from the opposition particularly if Rashid Khan goes for plenty. Wayne Parnell has been very inconsistent with his lines and we cannot help but feel that Sohail Tanvir deserves a go instead of him.
Fareed Khan, Muslim Musa, Zamir Khan, and Shahidullah are decidedly the second string of the Afghan bowling resources. How these players go against some of the best T20 players in the Balkh Legends side is going to be decisive.
Luke Ronchi, Hazratullah Zazai, Colin Ingram, MJ Ahmadi, Shawkat Zaman, Laurie Evans, Shahidullah Kamal, Rashid Khan, Muslim Musa, Farid Malik, WD Parnell.
The team winning the toss is likely to bat first
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There are definite signs of the pitch in Sharjah slowing up. The new ball is crucial to score with and expect the teams to play their best bowlers with the new ball because the batting team has no option but to go hard.
Accelerating in the middle is going to be very difficult for a new batsman so the set batsmen must go big if the teams are to reach good totals.
The weather is going to predictably hot and dry.
We think the Balkh Legends are the best side in the competition with the most balanced side of them all. Kabul Zwanan has the potential to cause an upset but will need one of its match winners to have a great day.
Back the Balkh Legends to win.