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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Afghanistan Premier League: Balkh's Chris Gayle at brutal best as 'everything felt OK'

Kandahar miss UAE seamer Mohammed Naveed's services, as West Indian opener hits whirlwind fifty to send his side to APL semi-finals

The UAE’s lone playing involvement in the Afghanistan Premier League was ended at the first hurdle after Mohammed Naveed’s Kandahar Knights were eliminated.

The UAE fast bowler was not even fit to take the field for the final match of Kandahar’s listless debut campaign in the new league in Sharjah.

He missed Thursday’s last league-stage encounter with Balkh Legends with illness, and faces a race to be well enough in time for Monday’s Twenty20 international between the national team and Australia in Abu Dhabi.

In his absence, Kandahar were soundly beaten by league leaders Balkh for whom Chris Gayle was at his brutal best.

The West Indian opener hit eight sixes in making 73 from 22 deliveries, as Balkh made easy work of chasing 142 to win at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

They did it with six wickets and more than two overs to spare, as they advanced to a Friday semi-final.

UAE international Mohammed Naveed was absent for Kandahar Knights due to illness. Antonie Robertson / The National
UAE international Mohammed Naveed was absent for Kandahar Knights due to illness. Antonie Robertson / The National

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Read more:

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The Cricket Pod: How the Abu Dhabi T20 and Afghanistan Premier League can grow

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Gayle holds the record for the fastest century in T20 cricket, scored off 30 balls while playing in Indian Premier League in 2013.

At one point it appeared possible he could break that and register his 22nd ton in the format, but he says the thought did not cross his mind.

“I wasn’t really checking, I didn’t know how many balls I’d faced,” Gayle said.

“Momentum was with me from the first over. The ball was coming onto the bat nicely, and everything felt OK as a batter.

“Sometimes we don’t experience these kind of things. Sometimes you lose your shape a bit and find it difficult to score, but today everything was in place.”

Despite having some of the format’s most celebrated names, like Brendon McCullum, Tymal Mills and Paul Stirling, Kandahar finished last.

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Asghar Afghan, the Kandahar and Afghanistan captain, said at least the tournament had provided an opportunity for his young teammates, like APL’s leading wicket-taker Sayed Shirzad, with a chance to shine.

“It was still a good tournament for us, because it gave opportunities for our young players like Shirzad and Karim Janat,” Asghar said.

“I think national team captaincy is easier that in this league tournament because you know everyone in the national team’s own [roles].

“Here, it is difficult, but we were all able to learn a lot. Our batsmen did not play well, but it is all part of the game.”

The organisers are hopeful the tournament will be staged in Kabul in the future, and Gayle did not rule out the idea of playing.

“This is a start for Afghanistan, and hopefully they can build on this,” Gayle said.

“I’m sure you would have guys from around the world who would want to tour Afghanistan as well. We will see what happens next year.”