About the Match
This contest in the Afghanistan Premier League is between the two form teams of the season so far. Both the Paktia Panthers and the Balkh Legends have won three out of their four matches and have six points each. They are currently the top-2 teams on the league table and are separated just by net run-rate.
The batting firepower on both sides is quite impressive and that is where most of the attention of the players will be. There are some canny bowlers taking part in this contest as well, though, and it would be wise to be aware of them while making your picks.
This a top of the table clash and we expect both sides to come out swinging.
The Balkh Legends added Chris Gayle to their strong batting lineup and bunted Colin Munro down to three. With Ten Doeschate and Bopara in good form as well, the Balkh Legends top-order is fearsome.
The side also has Mohammad Nabi and Usman Ghani as two very high-quality Afghan players to help balance things out. The Balkh Legends will bank on their batting to do the job for them in most matches and it is difficult to argue with that thinking.
Gayle will want to register his trademark century in this league as well and continue his tradition of dominating T20 cricket wherever he plays. He took a little time getting started in the last match, eventually scoring 20 from 24 balls (14 of them coming in just three deliveries). Chris Gayle in your side can be a double-edged sword these days.
He has the ability to more than make up for any dot balls he faces during the beginning of the inning but if he gets out then the other batsmen can feel the pressure.
This is why it will be crucial for the Balkh Legends to keep their best players towards the top. Why would you want to keep Munro at three when there are still two more international overseas players to follow?
We would keep the top-4 loaded and go hard at the opposition.
Among the bowlers, Mirwais Ashraf, Qais Ahmad, Aftab Alam, and Gulbadin Naib have been very impressive. With Mohammad Nabi and Ravi Bopara in the side to help contribute as all-rounders, the Balkh Legends have a bowling lineup that is capable of winning it matches as well.
The last match was an example of that as the Balkh Legends defended 143 against the Nangarhar Leopards by bowing them out for just 118.
The Paktia Panthers has been one of the best batting sides of the tournament so far. We spoke of the danger their batting lineup poses but also of the potential for a collapse and that is almost what happened last time around.
The Paktia Panthers were reduced to 71 for 7 before Sikandar Raza and Isuru Udana rescued the side somewhat and helped them post 127. In a side filled with explosive batsmen, Sikandar Raza has been the calm headed professional providing some stability in the middle.
Unlike the Balkh Legends who have put all their overseas players in the batting department, the Paktia Panthers have chosen to bolster their bowling department as well. Isuru Udana has been brilliant for the Panthers with 7 wickets to his name in the last two matches.
His mix of slower deliveries have been difficult to pick and his selection has certainly been one of the smarter ones we have seen this tournament. Shahid Afridi also continues to be miserly with the ball bowling his four overs for just 13 runs in the last match.
These two headlined a brilliant combined bowling effort from the Paktia Panthers to be able to defend 127 in the end. The question now in front of them is whether this bowling attack will hold up against the Balkh Legends?
The Balkh Legends look like a very strong unit that is stacked with both batting and bowling talent. The Paktia Panthers have been doing well because some of their key players are performing but they do not have the depth that the Legends do. Most importantly, the strong base of Afghan players gives the Balkh Legends the advantage.
Back the Balkh Legends to win.
The team winning the toss is likely to bat first
The scores are starting to get lower in the matches and finally the number of matches seems to be catching up with the Sharjah surface. The weather will be hot and dry as it usually is in the desert. The role of the attacking batsmen at the top of the order is going to become more important as the run scoring becomes difficult after the ball gets a little older.
A score of around 160-170 should be considered par.