Paktia Panthers Take Down Kandahar Knights By Nine Runs

A first victory proved to be elusive once again for the Kandahar Knights as the Paktia Panthers edged a nail-biting nine-run win in the Gulbahar Afghanistan Premier League of Cricket (APLC) at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Friday night.

Also on Friday, Nangarhar Leopards beat Kabul Zwanan by 15 runs.

Anton Devcich 77 and Johnson Charles 43 batted (115 opening partnership) and Mujeeb Zadran 3-29 and Rahmat Shah 3-25 bowled superbly for Nangarhar Leopards.

Having come close against Kabul Zwanan on Thursday night, only to go down by two runs, the Knights had their best chance after restricting Panthers to the lowest total of the tournament so far.

But the 128-run chase was heading nowhere after another batting failure following another fine bowling performance from Sri Lankan medium pacer Isuru Udana (3-19), left-arm Sharafuddin Ashraf (3-31) and medium pacer Yamin Ahmadzai (2-20).

And though Najibullah Zadran and then Karim Janat tried to put some life into it, the Panthers prevailed in the end.

The Kandahar Knights, captained by Afghanistan skipper Asghar Afghan, have lost all four of their fixtures.

“The bowlers did well. Lala (Shahid Afridi) gave confidence to the bowlers that we can defend this total,” said Panthers captain Mohammad Shahzad.

“We felt 127 was not a big total. But Paktia team bowled very well. Unfortunately, our batsmen did not take responsibility,” Afghan said.

Earlier, it was ironic that the Paktia Panthers, the only team to have scored over 200 twice, folded up for the lowest total of the tournament thus far.

The Panthers were shot out for a paltry 127 and the man responsible for that was left-arm pacer Sayed Shirzad.

The 24-year-old Shirzad, who has been in great form in Afghanistan’s Shpageeza Cricket League this season, picked four wickets for 19. Meanwhile, UAE medium pacer Mohammad Naveed took two for 34.

Zimbabwean all-rounder Sikandar Raza played a lone hand with a half-century, his 51 off 42 deliveries with five boundaries, being his second of the tournament, after he had made 78 not out against Kabul Zwanan in the opening fixture.

Sri Lankan Isuru Udana made a run-a-ball 23 but the rest of the batting floundered.

The law of averages finally caught up with Panthers captain Mohammad Shahzad with the free-scoring opener making just four before being cramped for room and holing out to Najibullah Zadran off Naveed.

Shahzad had had scores of 67, 53 and 42 thus far against Kabul Zwanan, Nangarhar Leopards and the Balkh Legends respectively.    

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