Sharjah: Sri Lanka’s Isuru Udana wreaked havoc with a lethal three-wicket haul to guide Paktia Panthers to a nine-run win over Kandahar Knights and leave the latter winless after four matches in Friday’s early fixture of the Afghanistan Premier League (APL) being held at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Needing to score less than seven runs an over, the Kandahar Knights struggled for runs from the onset to be eventually bundled out for 118 in 19.4 overs.
Led in this competition by Afghanistan national team skipper Asghar Afghan, the Kandahar Knights are yet to record a win so far from four matches, while leaving them with no points at the bottom of the five-team standings.
It was Udana leading the bowling charge with his early burst that bagged him three scalps in his first three overs. First the 30-year-old allrounder from Balangoda yorked Paul Stirling, then had Kiki Wessels caught by Samiullah Shenwari and then caught and bowled skipper Asghar Afghan to put the Kandahar Knights on the backfoot.
New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum failed to take off once again this time making 18 off 22 till he was caught on the long-off boundary by Rahmanullah Gurbaz off Yamin Ahmadzai and the Knights slipping at 47 for four.
With wickets falling at regular intervals, the Kandahar Knights found it tough to negotiate through the mid-overs bowling of Shahid Afridi, Sharafuddin Ashraf and Yamin Ahmadzai to end up just nine runs short of the target.
However, it was Karim Janat – younger brother of skipper Asghar – who kept things alive for the Knights till the end. Needing 48 in the last 36 deliveries and then 21 in the final three overs, Janat assumed full responsibility scoring valuable runs.
Egged by a motley Friday crowd, the Knights needed 14 runs from the last two overs. But Sharafuddin Ashraf bowled a tight line and length giving away just two runs while sending back Mohammad Naveed leaving the last pair of Janat and Waqar Salimkheil a rather tough ask of getting 12 from the last six deliveries. But Janat was run out for a gallant 27 from 23 and the Knights wilted once again.
Earlier, opting to bat after winning the toss, the Paktia Legends were in all sorts of problems as they laboured to an under-par 127 with 10 deliveries still remaining from their allotted 20 overs.
Sikandar Raza proved to be the pivot around whom the innings was built as the Pakistani-born Zimbabwean batsman was eighth man to fall but only after taking the Paktia Legends to 125 in the 18th over.
With his team sliding at 71 for seven, Raza teamed up with Sri Lankan Isuru Udana to realise 54 runs from 43 deliveries for the eighth wicket to bring in an inkling of respectability to the final total.
The 33-year-old Sialkot-born Raza went on to make a patient half-century that included five hits to the fence during his 42-ball stay at the crease. Udana was next highest with a run-ba-ball 23 as the Paktia Legends folded at 127 in 18.2 overs.
Left-arm medium pacer Sayed Shirzad was the pick of the bowlers with four wickets for a miserly 19 runs in his 3.2 overs and an economy rate of 5.7, while Mohammad Naveed and Waqar Salamkheil took two each.