APL: Paktia Panthers pull off narrow win against Kandahar Knights
Sri Lankan Isuru Udana scored 23 and picked up three wickets.(Getty Image)

Paktia Panthers won a low-scoring game against Kandahar Knights by nine runs. The Knights, who are yet to record a win in the tournament, had the ideal scenario to get off the mark on the points table but chasing 128 to win, were bowled out for 119 with Isuru Udana and Sharafuddin Ashraf picking up three wickets each.

Not that the Knights did not bowl well. Led by a brilliant spell of four for 19 from Syed Shirzad, which broke the back of the Panthers’ innings and at one point the team seemed to be in danger of getting bowled out inside 100 at 69 for six. But it was Sikander Raza, who scored a half-century and along with Isuzu put a 54-run stand for the eighth wicket to get them above 100 and then some more. Aiding Shirzad were Mohammad Naveed and Waqar Salamkheil who contributed with two wickets each.

Barring Raza, no other top order batsman could make the most of the opportunity. Openers Mohammad Shahzad and Ihsanullah Janat could not even register double-digit scores and a duck each for Shahid Afridi and Ashraf only made matters worse for the Panthers. It was then that Raza brought all his experience into play and scored 51 off 42 deliveries with five boundaries. Udana’s 23 was the second-highest score of the innings.

Beginning the chase, Knights’ new-found opening combination of Paul Sterling and Riki Wessels did not work out, with the wicketkeeper getting out for a fourth-ball duck. Brendon McCullum and Asghar Afghan tried to get going but their untimely dismissals had Knights in trouble at 47 for 4. Ashraf was introduced, and he removed Nasir Jamal, followed by the wicket of Karim Sadiq, bowled by Afridi. Najibullah Zadran and Karim Janat tried to stabilise the innings. Zadran tonked two sixes and struck a boundary to signal his arrival but after facing 15 balls, became Ashraf’s second wicket.

Janat and Mohammad Naveed stitched an attacking partnership and kept chipping at the total. With 14 needed off 12 balls, the momentum shifted again when Sharafuddin bowled three dots to Naveed and then enticed him to hit one to long-off. 12 needed off the final over, the ball was handed to Yamin Ahmadzai. First ball, he sent back Sayed Shirzad. This exposed the final pair out in the middle. The next two were a single and a dot ball. With 11 needed off three, Janat tried to attempt a virtually impossible run to give the strike back but was run out to allow Panthers to squeeze out a narrow win.

Brief Scores: Paktia Panthers 127 all out in 18.2 overs (Sikandar Raza 51, Isuru Udana 23; Sayed Shirzad 4/19) beat Kandahar Knights 118 all out in 19.4 overs (Najibullah Zadran 20, Karim Janat 27; Isuru Udana 3 for 19) by nine runs.