Nangarhar Leopards are back to winning ways with a 15-run victory over Kabul Zwanan in the Gulbahar Afghanistan Premier League (APL) T20, powered by Fogg, invested and promoted by Snixer Sports in association with the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB). In a game that saw Kabul Zwanan get off to a blazing start in pursuit of 183, Nangarhar Leopards’ spinners inspired them to make a great comeback. This is Nangarhar Leopards’ second win in the tournament, coming at the back of three consecutive defeats.    

Put in to bat, Nangarhar Leopards were off to a strong start with Anton Devcich continuing his good form. He had solid support from Johnson Charles who kept rotating the strike even as Devcich attacked the bowlers. Devcich controlled the strike and faced 46 balls for an aggressive 77. His innings featured eight fours and five sixes. Kabul Zwanan bowlers found it difficult in the first ten overs as Devcich dominated the bowling. By the time Devcich was dismissed, Nangarhar Leopards had sped away to 115 by the 12th over.

Considering the stage they were at, Nangarhar Leopards may have fancied a bigger score. In a way, it was similar to their previous game against Kabul Zwanan, where they failed to capitalize on a good start. The middle order failed to find the momentum after Johnson Charles was dismissed for 43. In the last seven overs, they managed to score only 50 runs. Kabul Zwanan’s bowlers did well in those overs to restrict the batsmen.

For a while during the run-chase, Kabul Zwanan promised an encore of their previous encounter against Nangarhar Leopards where Hazratullah Zazai smashed his way to a memorable century. However, this time it was Luke Ronchi who also came to the party along with Zazai. During their partnership, it looked like Kabul Zwanan would coast to victory and a partnership of 80 inside seven overs set it up perfectly.

That is when the Nangarhar Leopards’ spinners helped them pull things back. Mujeeb had his revenge on Hazratullah when he dismissed him for 40. Rahmat Shah and Zahir Khan also did their bit to spark a collapse with Colin Ingram, Javed Ahmadi and Laurie Evans falling cheaply. From 80 for no loss in the seventh over, Kabul Zwanan slipped to 117 for five in the 14th, when Ronchi was dismissed for 50. During that phase, Nangarhar Leopards made a comeback and reignited their hopes for a victory. Mujeeb and Rahmat picked three wickets each and conceded only 54 runs in their eight overs in tandem.

By now, Kabul Zwanan were on a slippery slope with no brakes and Rashid Khan’s dismissal signaled the end of their hopes. It was quite a slump for them considering their strong start.  

Brief scores: Nangarhar Leopards 182 for five in 20 overs (Anton Devcich 77, Johnson Charles 43; Wayne Parnell 2 for 47) beat Kabul Zwanan 167 for nine in 20 overs (Hazratullah Zazai 40, Luke Ronchi 50; Mujeeb-ur-Rehman 3 for 39, Rahmat Shah 3 for 25) by 15 runs.