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|Ziaur Rahman Sharifi||3.0||0||26||0||8.67|
|Ziaur Rahman Sharifi||1||3||0||0||33.33|
The Kandahar Knights lost a match which turned out to be pretty close in the end against Kabul Zwanan and is still looking for their first win of the tournament. That task is not going to be easy against the Paktia Panthers, who have won two out of the three matches they have played so far, and have been one of the best batting sides of the Afghanistan Premier League so far.
An improved performance and some changes in personnel helped the Kandahar Knights put up more of a fight in its last match. Hopefully, the team can continue to build on that and provide a stiff contest to the Paktia Panthers.
Some tight bowling by Karim Sadiq, Mohammad Naveed, and Syed Shirzad had kept Kabul on a tight leash in the last match but Laurie Evans once again proved to be Kabul’s savior. He helped his side scored just enough runs to be out of Kandahar’s reach.
Unfortunately for Kandahar, its batting has continued to be a big problem this entire season and that was the case in its last match also. Paul Stirling and Brendon McCullum have been mere passengers in this tournament having contributed very little to the team’s cause on the field.
Kevin O’Brien could also be put in this same category and that is why he was dropped for the match against Kandahar. His replacement, Rikki Wessels, actually provided some fantastic late order hitting to raise hopes of a victory when everything seemed lost.
Wessels and Nasir Jamal took 22 runs off one over from Rashid Khan to make things interesting but Nasir got out soon after and Wessels just did not have the support he needed.
A few runs from Asghar Afghan were nice to see but he too did not carry on when he had got set. Afghan full tool against Fitratullah, smashing him for four sixes to boost the Knights run-chase.
With nothing much to play for, the Kandahar Knights can afford to experiment and maybe change the batting order as well. Brendon McCullum and Paul Stirling, if they both play, will be dangerous in this match because they can play absolutely freely.
An improved bowling performance lends hope against the strong Paktia Panthers batting lineup but the Kandahar Knights will have to do something special to avoid losing all their group matches in the inaugural season of the Afghanistan Premier League.
PR Stirling, Karim Sadiq, Brendon McCullum, Asghar Stanikzai, Nasir Jamal, N Zadran, Riki Wessels, Karim Janat, Mohammad Naveed, Sayed Shirzad, Waqar Salamkheil.
The Paktia Panthers once again scored over 200 runs batting first and put themselves in an excellent position to win the match. The side has a strong batting lineup filled with players that are in good form.
Leading the way for the Panthers has been Afghanistan’s first choice wicketkeeper-batsman, Mohammad Shahzad. He smashed five sixes and two fours in his 21 ball stay and continued his brilliant form in this tournament.
He has had excellent support from Ihsanullah, Cameron Delport, Sikandar Raza, Samiullah Shenwari and a couple of cameos down the order.
Cameron Delport smashed 70 from 48 balls with 6 sixes to be the highest scorer for the Paktia Panthers in the last game. There is Shahid Afridi waiting in the side as well and he can be another very dangerous hitter when he comes off.
The Paktia Panthers also included Isuru Udana from Sri Lanka in their last match and he performed admirably as well. He took four wickets for 38 runs including the most important wicket of Chris Gayle in his last match.
Three wickets for Ziur Rahman and very economical figures for Shahid Afridi helped prove that the Panthers are not just about their batting either. They have a decent bowling lineup that should be difficult to score off in most games.
Sikandar Raza did not have much to do in this match as he did not bat and was not needed to bowl but his all-round capability adds a lot of balance to an already strong side. We would continue to persist with him moving forward.
The only risk with a side like the Paktia Panthers is that their ultra-aggressive style of batting could implode in any game. Cameron Delport is perhaps the one player that could stabilize this side but he too bats in the top-3 and is going to have to go hard in all the matches he plays.
Sikandar Raza, in the lower middle order, can be used a floater to provide some support if there is a top-order collapse in the upcoming games.
M Shahzad, Ihsanullah, C Delport, Samiullah Shenwari, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Sikandar Raza, SMSK Afridi, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Isuru Udana, Yamin Ahmadzai, Ziaur Rahman Sharifi.
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Sharjaj continues to be hot and dry for the players. The T20 format and the matches being played under lights provides them some respite but it cannot be easy to play so many matches in such a short span of time.
The pitch continues to be slow, dead, and unresponsive to any kind of bowling. Perhaps, the fact that it is so lifeless is also the reason why it has changed little even after numerous matches have been played on it.
The pitch will continue to get slower and slower as the tournament progresses. Par scores are now around 170-175.
The Kandahar Knights have nothing to play for anymore and that can take a toll on the team. The Paktia Panthers, on the other hand, are in good form and winning. They will be very keen to win this match and secure a place in the knockouts.
Back the Paktia Panthers to win.
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