andre fletcher
Andre Fletcher (Credit: Afghanistan Cricket Board)

Nangarhar Leopards defeated Balkh Legends by six wickets to keep their hopes of making the semi-finals of the inaugural Afghanistan Premier League on Wednesday.

Handy contributions from their middle-order helped Legends to 133/7 but Leopards’ chase was powered by a blistering 22-ball 48 from opener Andre Fletcher as they made 134/4 in 18 overs.

On a tricky surface at the Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium, Legends captain Mohammad Nabi opted to bat but his decision backfired immediately as opener Dilshan Munaweera was bowled by Naveen-ul-Haq for 1 in the second over. Darwish Rasooli showed intent and clattered three fours in an over of Ben Cutting to take his team to 42/1 in five overs.

However, the quick dismissals of Colin Munro (9) and Rasooli (27) in the space of three deliveries pegged them back. Their batsmen struggled to get going. Ravi Bopara (35) and Ryan ten Doeschate (23) did contribute to prevent a collapse but their individual efforts weren’t enough for a challenging target as Fazal Niazai got rid of both the set batsmen. Mirwais Ashraf struck 17 off 11 to give the total some decency.

While others struggled, Fletcher seemed to be batting on a different track. After a six I the first over, bowled by Nabi, he belted 27 runs in his third – two fours and three sixes. He ended the Powerplay with two more sixes as Leopards raced to 61/0 in six overs.

Fletcher departed in the seventh over before Qais Ahmed struck twice in an over that included the scalps of Anton Devcich (14) and Johnson Charles (7) to leave them 73/3. He then outfoxed Rahmat Shah to have him stumped on 4 for his third wicket.

But the target was never going to be a challenge with the start Fletcher had given. A calm-headed Hashmatullah Shahidi (31* off 35) and an attacking Shafiqullah Shafiq (27* off 17) ensured the the quick dismissals remained an aberration in an otherwise comfortable chase.

Brief Scores: Nangarhar Leopards 134/4 in 18 overs (Andre Fletcher 48; Qais Ahmad 3/19) beat Balkh Legends 133/7 (Ravi Bopara 35; Naveen-ul-Haq 2/21) by six wickets