Balkh Legends and Kabul Zwanan are two teams vying for the top spot in the Afghanistan Premier League (APL) table. With plenty of high-profile attractions lining up, the stage is set for an enthralling contest at 17:30 IST on Sunday.
Considering the nature of pitches at Sharjah and the recent trends prevailing in Twenty20 cricket, those batting in the top-order are likelier to make a lasting impact rather than middle-order contenders.
Although he has not quite managed to impose himself on the opposition bowlers, there's always the chance of Chris Gayle delivering a vintage powerful performance. On the other hand, Hazratullah Zazai is in scintillating form at the moment. This match could evoke his first decisive effort against a team not named Nangarhar Leopards.
Luke Ronchi and Colin Munro are starting to adapt their style of stroke-play to these sluggish conditions on offer. However, if they get past the Power Play overs, the Kiwi duo have to make it count for their respective teams.
Drawing upon his extensive experience of playing franchise cricket across the globe, Ryan ten Doeschate is gradually establishing himself as one of the most dependable batsmen in the ongoing APL season. If things get tight in the middle-overs, his battle against Rashid Khan could decide the game either way.
Remarkably, Mohammad Nabi's off-spin has been more of a threat than his batting in the current tournament. Considering that he usually bats in the bottom half, it may not be a prudent move to anoint him as captain of a fantasy lineup. With the ball, Balkh require an upswing in the veteran's wickets tally.
With just three wickets from five matches, Rashid Khan has been a disappointment this season. The top-ranked T20I bowler will be under pressure to lead from the front. You can only keep a world-class operator down for so long.
Gulbadin Naib has arguably been the most consistent seam bowler on show in this APL edition. Thus far, no batsman has looked comfortable against his deceptive change in pace. He can be relied upon to produce another steady spell at Sharjah.
Among the fast bowlers on show from both teams, Mirwais Ashraf is a must-have in this lineup for his ability to hone in on the ideal lengths for such slow surfaces. His well-disguised cutters, delivered intermittently, have made life difficult for even accomplished batsmen.
Leg-spinner Qais Ahmad will be eager to upstage his more illustrious counterpart from Kabul Zwanan. Aside from possessing the capacity to pick vital wickets, he can also build pressure by reducing the flow of runs.
Captaincy Preference Order: Ryan ten Doeschate, Rashid Khan, Gulbadin Naib
Fantasy XI for Balkh Legends vs Kabul Zwanan: Chris Gayle, Hazratullah Zazai, Luke Ronchi (wk), Colin Munro, Ryan ten Doeschate (c), Ravi Bopara, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Gulbadin Naib, Mirwais Ashraf and Qais Ahmad