Kandahar Knights take on Nangarhar Leopards at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Saturday at 21:30 IST. As the tournament hurtles towards the business stages, both teams will want to surge forward by acquiring those two vital points on offer.
In what was the second match of the 2018 APL, Kandahar and Nangarhar squared off against each other. Pouncing on the Knights' disappointing batting effort, the Leopards cruised to a clinical six-wicket victory.
Nangarhar's opening combination of Najeeb Tarakai and Anton Devcich have managed to mix caution with aggression in the Power Play overs. The New Zealand batsman, in particular, is creating an impact by adapting his game to the spin-friendly conditions.
Brendon McCullum might be slightly frustrated at not converting starts into meaningful knocks. As with any quality batsman, the 37-year-old is just one match away from making a significant contribution. Kandahar will be hoping for a vintage performance against Nangarhar's tight bowling attack.
Initially perceived to be a 50-over operator, Hashmatullah Shahidi has extended his splendid form from the Asia Cup into the APL. The sluggish conditions at Sharjah, which demand deft manoeuvring of the field, are helping him make a mark in the shortest format as well. He can be relied upon to score a reasonable amount of runs.
Upon debuting in the APL in the recently completed match against Kabul Zwanan, the introduction of Riki Wessels has added steel to Kandahar's fragile lower middle-order. Following his dazzling stroke-play (albeit in losing cause), the veteran wicket-keeper batsman deserves a promotion up the order. It will come across as a surprise if it doesn't happen.
Ben Cutting does have the profound ability to contribute steadfastly in both departments of the game. Even after factoring the law of averages into account, one must not rule out another impressive effort from the Australian all-rounder.
Inducting both Waqar Salamkheil and Sayed Shirzad into the fantasy lineup is prudent. While both left-arm seamers do not possess sharp pace, their unwavering accuracy and stifling lengths convert them into bankable operators for Kandahar.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman is showing gradual signs of returning to his dependable best. After a couple of indifferent spells, the mystery spinner registered figures of 2/19 against Balkh Legends. His potency with the new-ball can result in a vital tussle against the likes of Tarakai and Devcich.
In a tournament featuring a slew of proven spinners, chinaman exponent Zahir Khan has managed to shine by adhering to a stump-to-stump line. Unless the Knights take the attack to him, the 19-year old is likely to produce another impressive showing.
Captaincy Preference Order: Ben Cutting, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Brendon McCullum
Fantasy XI for Kandahar Knights vs Nangarhar Leopards: Najeeb Tarakai, Anton Devcich, Brendon McCullum, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Riki Wessels (wk), Rahmat Shah, Ben Cutting (c), Waqar Salamkheil, Sayed Shirzad, Zahir Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman