Afghanistan Cricket Premier League was officially launched on Friday night in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates when Kabul Zwanan faced Paktia Panthers in the first ever league match.
The five-team T20 competition will be held over three weeks and features the Kabul and Paktia teams as well as the Nangarhar Leopards, Kandahar Knights and Balkh Legends.
In the opening match, Kabul Zwanan beat Paktia Panthers by three wickets.
Rashid Khan, who is the captain for Kabul Zwanan, won the toss and elected to bowl first.
Mohammad Shahzad, captain of Paktia Panthers, batted first. After 20 overs the Panthers lost four wickets and set a 218 run target for Zwanan.
Shahzad made 67 runs off 39 balls and Sikandar Raza made 78 runs off 40 balls.
For Kabul Zwanan Laurie Evans got 79 runs off 39 balls not out and was named man of the match.
On Saturday, Nangarhar Leopards will play Kandahar Knights at 4pm and at 8pm Kabul Zwanan will play Balkh Legends.
The league involves several of the game’s most recognizable players, including Shahid Afridi, Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum, Rashid Khan and Mohammed Shahzad.
“It is a kind of dream,” Rashid, the Afghanistan leg-spinner, told the UAE’s The National.
“Every country has their own league, and finally we have this, thanks to the hard work of the [Afghanistan Cricket Board]. It felt impossible to have it in such a short period of time, but they have done it.”
One UAE player, Mohammed Naveed, is part of the league and is playing for Kandahar Knights.
Run by the ACB, the league is being hosted at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, which has played host to the majority of Afghanistan’s “home” international matches in the past.
“We feel proud to be associated with them, and proud they are up in the top 10 teams in the world,” Mazhar Khan, the Sharjah Cricket Council administrator, said.
“Afghanistan has had very good support right from Day 1 in this part of the world. I am sure there will be a lot of crowd to handle.”