Qais Ahmed’s five for 18 setup Balkh Legends’ win over Kabul Zwanan in the final

Balkh Legends have been crowned champions of the inaugural Gulbahar Afghanistan Premier League (APL) T20, powered by Fogg, invested and promoted by Snixer Sports in association with the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB). Led by Qais Ahmed’s five-for, Balkh Legends restricted Kabul Zwanan to 132 and then sealed the title with a successful run-chase at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.  

It was a night to see whether Kabul Zwanan had it in them to knock the favourites Balkh Legends away from the crowning glory. In the end, it did prove a suppositious thought as some nerves from Balkh players, specials from Qais and Gayle and some sloppy work in the field from Kabul resulted in a hitch-laced yet easy win for Balkh. Riding on Qias Ahmad’s splendid 5 for 18 spell, and Gayle’s calculated 56 runs from 34 balls, Balkh Legends defeated Kabul Zwanan by 4 wickets with 11 balls to spare.

After opting to bat first on a two-paced pitch where the ball wasn’t coming nicely onto the bat, Kabul didn’t find the start they were hoping for losing their openers inside the powerplay. It opened the gates for Qais to put on some pressure on the rest of the batsmen and accounted for a middle-order collapse that included scalps of Parnell, Ahmadi and Evans, who all did get a start but could not convert into big. Lack of big partnerships and any blazing cameo did Kabul in who finished with a below-par score of 132 for 9 in 20 overs.

With Balkh’s batsmen in top form throughout the tournament, it needed something magical and classy from Kabul to stop them. They did get the opening window when Parnell removed both openers in the very first over. But some chaotic work in the field that included two dropped catches of Gayle allowed Balkh batsmen to keep Kabul on the edge. A 50-run partnership for the 4th wicket between Gayle and Bopara was all they needed to take their team close, and eventually, they crossed over the line comfortably in the 19th over losing 6 wickets.

Qais Ahmad was adjudged the Man-of-the-Match while Rashid Khan, the losing skipper, was named the player of the tournament. The other accolades included - Isuru Udana as the Bowler of the Tournament, Mohammad Shahzad as the Batsman of the Tournament, Darwish Rasooli as the Emerging Player of the Tournament and Hazratullah Zazai won the Catch of the Tournament award.

Brief scores: Kabul Zwanan 132 for nine in 20 overs (Javed Ahmadi 32; Qais Ahmed 5 for 18) lost to Balkh Legends 138 for six in 18.1 overs (Chris Gayle 56, Ravi Bopara 32 not out; Wayne Parnell 3 or 35) by four wickets.