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Kabul Zwanan finds itself close to the top of the league table thanks to two victories from three matches, their only loss coming against the Balkh Legends. Their opponents for this match, though, are currently winless and trying to kickstart their APL campaign. The Kandahar Knights have matches on two consecutive days coming up, and with a short-sharp season this year, there is no more room for any slip-ups.
Can Kabul continue to build on its success and secure its place for the knockouts or will The Kandahar Knights throw a spanner into their plans?
There was a lot of talk before Kabul’s last match about how the side was becoming a bit too dependent on Laurie Evans for runs. It seemed as Evans had to score in each and every game because Luke Ronchi and Colin Ingram were not pulling their weight.
Hazratullah Zazai rectified that in the last match and in spectacular fashion. He scored 124 runs from just 55 balls in an inning that included 12 fours and 9 sixes. It was hitting of the most brutal kinds and showed just exactly the kind of benefit this tournament could have for Afghanistan.
Zazai did not spare any bowler in the Nangarhar Leopards side being especially harsh on Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Ben Cutting. Thanks to this inning, Kabul was able to chase down a stiff target of 189 with over two overs to spare.
So, is everything in perfect order for Kabul Zwanan? Most certainly not. Zazai played an astonishing inning and covered for the lack of runs from all the other major batsmen. This is not going to happen every time and makes the Kabul batting lineup vulnerable.
The bowling was also pretty ragged with the exception of Rashid Khan. Wayne Parnell went for 50 runs in his four overs, Fareed Ahmed was smashed around, and Mijat Massod looked out of his league as well.
Rashid Khan’s four overs for just 13 runs and one wicket stand out as being potentially match-winning. It is encouraging for the side that a couple of their players are putting in brilliant performances but to depend on individual brilliance is dangerous. The team as a whole needs to find more players to take responsibility and add consistency to the Kabul performances going forward.
Hazratullah Zazai, Luke Ronchi, MJ Ahmadi, Colin Ingram, Laurie Evans, Shahidullah Kamal, Rashid Khan, Farid Malik, WD Parnell, Muslim Musa, Fitratullah Khawari.
The Kandahar Knights have got their selection wrong in this edition of the Afghanistan Premier League and they are paying for that. Paul Stirling, Kevin O’Brien, and Tymal Mills as three of their four overseas players is a recipe for disaster. Even Brendon McCullum, the remaining overseas player, is not the most consistent performer even though he is still undoubtedly world-class.
The Knights actually put in a decent bowling performance to have to chase down only 166 for victory. Their batting, though, was very poor and a fast start soon deteriorated into a shamble of an inning.
Let us start with the good stuff first. The Kandahar Knights have benefitted from having some decent local players in their side. Karim Sadiq, Amir Hamza, and Karim Janat were all frugal in the last game and kept the pressure on the opposition.
This could actually allow the Kandahar Knights to pack their side with overseas batsmen and take full advantage. Unfortunately, the quality of their selections is holding them back. We have no doubt that Stirling, McCullum, and even Kevin O’Brien are capable of playing a match-winning inning. The real question is whether they can do it often enough?
Out of these three, we would actually back Paul Stirling to come good in the upcoming match because he has shown glimpses of his best in his brief stays at the crease. A little bit of luck and he could be in business.
Runs for Asghar Afghan would also have been encouraging for Kandahar Knights but as we have mentioned earlier, we are not sure if Asghar is really cut out for this format of the game at all.
The Kandahar Knights remains a side with the potential to cause an upset if one of their players has a great night but is unlikely to consistently be able to compete.
PR Stirling, Brendon McCullum, Nasir Jamal, Karim Sadiq, Asghar Stanikzai, N Zadran, Riki Wessels, Karim Janat, Amir Hamza, Mohammad Naveed, Sayed Shirzad.
The team winning the toss is likely to field first
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The pitch in Sharjah is finally showing some signs of wear and is slowing down. The groundsman has done an excellent job in preparing a decent batting surface for every single game so far but there will come a time when he can do no more. The small break in matches could have allowed for some rejuvenation but expect a slower pitch that is more difficult for scoring.
A total of around 170 should be treated as par.
Kabul Zwanan looks likely to continue its winning streak in this match.
Back Kabul Zwanan to win.