Balkh Legends majestically march into APL final
The other night, T20 journeyman Chris Gayle had said that young batsman Darwish Rasooli had caught his eye. And the 18-year-old batsman followed in the great West Indian's footsteps as the Balk Legends majestically marched into the final of the Gulbahar Afghanistan Premier League (APL).
Rasooli lit up the Sharjah Cricket Stadium late on Friday night as the Balkh Legends strode to a massive 171-run over the Nangarhar Leopards.
Rasooli's blitz, a 45-ball 78, was the cornerstone of the Legends' victory, but like they say, it was a superlative team effort from them.
The vaunted batting line-up clicked and they were backed up exceedingly well by the bowlers as well as the fielders.
Opener Gayle had served up a sumptuous 54 from 30 deliveries with nine boundaries and two sixes, his third half-century of the tournament, to set the tone and Rasooli carried that on his young shoulders after the experienced big man had departed.
Colin Munro and later captain Mohammad Nabi too made hay as the Leopards wilted under the onslaught. Munro made 33 from 22 balls with three sixes and two boundaries, while Nabi fired up a 16-ball 47 with the help of five sixes and two boundaries to swell Legends' imposing total of 235, the second highest total of the tournament.
The highest total has been by the Legends themselves, their 244 coming against Kabul Zwanan. But this was to be more than imposing for the Leopards as they were dwarfed under it by a stellar display from the Legends.
The Leopards had made the cut for the semis at the expense of the Kandahar Knights but, in hindsight, it wouldn't have mattered who the opposition was.
Such was the dominance from the Legends and it makes them firm favourites for the first-ever APL title.
They now await the winners of the Kabul Zwanan-Paktia Panthers encounter, in the final on Sunday night.
Meanwhile, Gayle, who had missed the first two matches because of commitments back home, has left his imprint on the tournament with back-to-back scores of 80, 73 and 54 up until now.
Rasooli followed in Gayle's shadows before emerging to make the semis his own. Rasooli, who has come through the Under-19 set up, posted his highest score in T20s in just his 12th game and ninth innings.
Rasooli's best scores in the APL have been 44 against the Panthers and 50 against Zwanan.
The Leopards couldn't get going as they were sucked by Nabi's off-spin, with the 33-year-old snaffling three for 12, while 18-year-old leg spinner Qais Ahmed too returned with three wickets.
The Leopards were in a sorry state with half the side gone for just 23 and the target was a bridge too far to cross.
The only interesting part of the chase, if you can call it that, was a brief rain interruption with the Leopards on 39 for six in 7.2 overs.
But then, even the rain couldn't help the Leopards as they were drenched by the Legends.
Balkh Legends: 235 for 5 in 20 overs (Darwish Rasooli 78, Chris Gayle 54, Mohammad Nabi 47, Colin Munro 33) beat Nangarhar Leopards: 64 all out (Mohammad Nabi 3-12, Qais Ahmed 3-18, Mirwais Ashraf 2-14) by 171 runs.
Man of the Match: Mohammad Nabi (Balkh Legends).