On a forgettable day for the bowlers at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. Hazratullah Zazai’s combative century helped Kabul Zwanan record their second win in the Gulbahar Afghanistan Premier League (APL), powered by Fogg, promoted, conceived and invested by Snixer Sports in association with Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB). Chasing 189 against Nangarhar Leopards, Kabul Zwanan achieved the target comfortably with seven wickets in hand.
Hazratullah played liked a man possessed — motoring along to a 17-ball fifty. The first over by Mujeeb-ur-Rehman went for 18. Within the first four overs, Kabul Zwanan had sped away to 72 for no loss, with Ronchi facing only three balls. Hazratullah punished spin and pace — rocking back on the backfoot if it was pitched short. Within the powerplay, he had put his team in commanding position, with Nangarhar Leopards hoping for a miracle to script a comeback.
There was another milestone for the tournament during this match as it witnessed its 100th six in only the sixth match. Luke Ronchi smashed Naveen-ul-Haq over long-on in the sixth over to help achieve this milestone.
Once the field spread, Kabul Zwanan’s carnage slowed down — which did not a difference to their surge towards the total. Hazratullah continued to smash boundaries regularly with Ronchi adding calm to the innings. By the end of the 10th over, they needed less than a run-a-ball. Hazratullah brought up his century off 44 balls with a four through long-off. Following the initial blitz, the result was a mere formality with Nangarhar Leopards having no answers for the southpaw. Luke Ronchi was dismissed for 26 to break a 144-run opening stand. Hazratullah continued for some time until he holed out to mid-wicket for 124 off 55 balls — an innings that featured 12 fours and nine sixes. Nangarhar Leopards did manage to dismiss Colin Ingram as well and delayed the inevitable for some time but this was little consolation
It wasn’t all domination from Kabul Zwanan earlier in the day though, when they put the opposition in to bat. When the Nangarhar Leopards openers sped over 100 in their first 10 overs, most felt they would push for a 200-plus total. Anton Devcich was at his attacking best and was able to pick the boundaries at ease. At the other end, Najeeb Tarakai gave him solid support with an innings of 42.
However, that is when Rashid Khan and Javed Ahmadi managed to pull things back with a disciplined bowling performance. Once Tarakai was dismissed in the 12th over, Nangarhar Leopards banked on Devcich. At the other end, Ahmadi and Rashid did the damage by dismissing Hashmatullah Shahidi and Andre Russell respectively. Russell failed to trouble the scorers in his maiden appearance in the tournament.
Nangarhar Leopards managed to get to 188 as Devcich moved along well to a 58-ball 94 not out which featured seven fours and six sixes. Ben Cutting’s short cameo towards the end also helped their cause. Nevertheless, Nangarhar Leopards would have been disappointed considering the start they had. Rashid’s spell of one for 13 in four overs and Ahmadi’s one for 27 had a huge bearing in hindsight.
Brief scores: Nangarhar Leopards 188 for five in 20 overs (Anton Devcich 94 not out, Najeeb Tarakai 42; Javed Ahmadi 1 for 27, Rashid Khan 1 for 13) lost to Kabul Zwanan 191 for three in 17.5 overs (Hazratullah Zazai 124, Luke Ronchi 26; Ben Cutting 1 for 41, Rahmat Shah 1 for 20, Zahir Khan 1 for 20) by seven wickets.