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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Afghanistan Premier League final lowdown and predictions: Chris Gayle and Balkh Legends to triumph

It is Balkh Legends against Kabul Zwanan in Sunday's final in Sharjah, which starts at 8pm

Chris Gayle and Balkh Legends are favourites to win the inaugural Afghanistan Premier League. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Chris Gayle and Balkh Legends are favourites to win the inaugural Afghanistan Premier League. Chris Whiteoak / The National

It is Balkh Legends against Kabul Zwanan at 8pm on Sunday in Sharjah to see who will be the inaugural winners of the Afghanistan Premier League.

Ahead of the showdown here is a look at the two teams and what to expect from the clash.

How they got there

Balkh thrashed Nangarhar Leopards by 171 runs in Friday's first semi-final.

Openers Chris Gayle (54) and Darwish Rasooli (78) set the tone for an innings that had 22 boundaries and 14 sixes.

Captain Mohammad Nabi quickly tore through the Nangarhar top order as he took 4-12, and Ben Cutting's side capitulated to 64 all out.

Meanwhile, Kabul proved too strong for Paktia Panthers in Saturday's semi-final as they cruised to a 90-run win.

Their innings of 192-9 was built on seven batsmen getting into double figures, with Colin Ingram (44) and Rashid Khan (35 not out) top scoring.

Rashid then shone with the ball as Paktia never recovered from losing four wickets by the fourth over and they eventually slumped to 102 all out, a score flattered by 27 off 16 balls from Shahid Afridi.

Rashid Khan starred for Kabul Zwanan during the Afghanistan Premier League held in Sharjah in October. Satish Kumar for The National
Rashid Khan starred for Kabul Zwanan during the Afghanistan Premier League held in Sharjah in October. Satish Kumar for The National

Past meetings

Balkh won both their group game matches with Kabul.

The sides met on October 6 in a game comfortably won by Balkh by eight wickets, with Ryan ten Doeschate hitting an unbeaten 78 off 46 balls.

Then on October 14, Gayle's 80 set up a 21-run win as Balkh's 244-6 was followed by Kabul making 223-7.

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Read more:

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Youngsters step up in absence of such stars as Chris Gayle

UAE fast bowler Mohammed Naveed can't wait to take on Hazratullah Zazai in APL again

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

Paul Radley: Signs of promise for Afghanistan Premier League despite slow start

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Key battle

Balkh's batting has largely been fearsome throughout the series.

If Kabul are to have any chance they need to contain Gayle and the rest of the top order, and that is probably going to fall on the shoulders of Rashid to make some early in-roads.

Prediction

Everything points to Balkh leaving Sharjah as the inaugural winners. They have beaten Kabul twice already and Gayle is in good nick with three half-centuries already in the tournament.

Kabul need an inspiring bowling performance to have any chance, but with the likes of Rasooli, Munro, Ten Doeschate and captain Mohammad Nabi there is so much depth to this batting line-up that it is going to be a tough task.