Ben Cutting’s five-wicket haul takes Nangarhar Leopards to victory over Kandahar Knights

cuttingSpearheaded by captain Ben Cutting’s first five-wicket haul in T20 cricket, the Nangarhar Leopards beat the Kandahar Knights by six wickets in their first game of the Gulbahar Afghanistan Premier League (APL), powered by Fogg, promoted, conceived and invested by Snixer Sports in association with Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB).
Standing in for Andre Russell, Cutting rose to the occasion and delivered a good bowling performance to restrict Kandahar Knights to only 139 for nine. In reply, Nangarhar Leopards weren’t troubled a lot despite losing a few wickets. The openers Johnson Charles and Najeeb Tarakai gave them a solid start. Both batsmen took the attack to the bowlers to setup a platform for the middle order – smashing two sixes and two fours each.
The Kandahar Knights spinners managed to keep their team’s hopes alive with a regular wickets post the opening stand. However, Hashmatullah Shahidi (26 not out) and Shafiqullah (35 not out) ensured there weren’t further hiccups for the Nangarhar Leopards and saw them through to a six-wicket victory. Kandahar Knights weren’t helped by a few lapses in the field, which let the pressure off. In the end, it was a comfortable victory for the Nangarhar Leopards. At 78 for four in the 12th over, Kandahar Knights may have felt they had a chance, but the Afghan pair put paid to those hopes.
Earlier, the Kandahar Knights won the toss and chose to bat first. Considering last night’s carnage and the power in their line-up, it seemed to be a good decision. The openers Brendon McCullum and Paul Stirling helped them get off to a steady start. However, by the seventh over, they were reduced to 46 for four with the openers, Karim Sadiq and Asghar Afghan all back in the hut.
From there, it was always a rebuilding act for Kandahar Knights. Karim Janat was the main contributor for them as his innings of 39 added some stability and took them to a total they could bowl to. Kevin O’Brien (22) and Najibullah Zadran (17) contributed with short cameos to give him some support.
It was the Cutting show though. He had dismissed the dangerous McCullum in the powerplay and returned in the slog overs to restrict the flow of runs. At 121 for five in 16 overs, Kandahar Knights looked set for a good total with the set Karim and Najibullah in the middle. Cutting went on to take four more wickets from there to ensure the opposition managed only 139 for nine. He had the opportunity to complete a hat-trick in the last over, only to be denied by Tymal Mills.
Although Cutting walked away with fine figures, he would give credit to his bowlers. The spinners, Mujeeb-ur-Rehman and Zahir Khan took two wickets and conceded only 46 runs in the seven overs between them. Naveen-ul-Haq impressed with his spell of one for 13 in three overs. Rahmat Shah also contributed with the important wicket of O’Brien. It’s fair to say it was a team effort!
 Brief scores: Kandahar Knights 139 for nine in 20 overs (Karim Janat 39, Kevin O’Brien 22; Ben Cutting 5 for 28) lost to Nangarhar Leopards 142 for four in 18.3 overs (Najeeb Tarakai 32, Jonson Charles 30, Shafiqullah 35 not out, Hashmatullah Shahidi 26 not out; Amit Hamza 1 for 27; Sayed Shirad 1 for 30, Waqar Salamkheil 1 for 28, Karim Sadiq 1 for 5) by six wickets.