APL 2018: Shahzad, bowlers fashion emphatic win for Paktia Panthers
Mohamamd Shahzad. (APL's Twitter handle)

Paktia Panthers recorded their fourth win in six matches beating Nangarhar Leopards by seven wickets at the Sharjah Stadium on Sunday. The Panthers produced a disciplined bowling effort to restrict the Leopards to 126 and led by Mohammad Shahzad’s unbeaten 78 chased the target inside 15 overs. Shahzad struck eight sixes during his 43-ball knock.

The Leopards’ top order did not live up to expectations, with openers Najeeb Tarakai and Anton Devcich falling in the second over. Anton Devcich and Johnson Charles got starts to get the Leopards to fifty in seven overs but regular wickets kept the Panthers in the game. Shahid Afridi and Ziaw Rahman finished with 2 for 27 and 3 for 27 respectively and their seven middle-order wickers prevented the Leopards to attain momentum. Charles scored 22 off 16 balls with three fours and a six, whereas Rahmat Shah top scored with 32, but Rahman and Afridi kept chipping away and mounted pressure.

Ben Cutting chipped in with a crucial 12-ball 21 with two sixes in the lower order but Isuru Udana’s two-wicket burst avoided the possibility of any last-minute acceleration. Sri Lankan Udana continued his fine form increasing his season tally 12 wickets.

In reply, Shahzad got the Panthers off to flyer scoring 68 inside the Powerplay. Zahir Khan was taken for back-to-back sixes as the opener brought up his fifty off just 24 balls. Mujeeb Ur Rahman provided the breakthrough with the wicket of Ihsanullah Janat but his dismissal had no bearing on Shahzad who quickened things up at the other end. Sandeep Lamichhane, playing his first game, straightaway left an impression, removing Cameron Delport and Sikandar Raza in three balls, finishing with 2 for 23 from his four overs. Shahzad’s eighth and final six was the winning hit.