WE CAN CELEBRATE NOW! Abahani players rush to congratulate their captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza (L) after he has just dismissed dangerman Sanath Jayasuriya (not in picture) during their Premier Cricket League match against Mohammedan at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur yesterday.Photo: STAR
Weakness can sometimes be a blessing. It has often been the case in an Abahani-Mohammedan match. And it was once again evidenced on Sunday when an understrength Abahani floored their bitter rivals Mohammedan by five wickets in a Premier Cricket League match at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur yesterday.
Abahani went into the Dhaka derby without five front-line bowlers. Their brave captain and country's number one paceman Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, who was instructed not to bend his injured back, had to bowl off-spin, a rare sight for the Dhaka crowd. Still, they won against a better-health Mohammedan quite convincingly despite some degree of fireworks from Sanath Jayasuriya.
With this win Abahani overcame a major hurdle in their bid to retain the title as well as maintained their solo lead with 18 points from ten matches. The defeat on the other hand left Mohammedan glued to their previous collection of 11 points from ten games. They will now have to beat Mohammed Ashraful-led Gazi Tank at the Fatullah Cricket Stadium tomorrow to win a place in the six-team Super League.
On Sunday the platform however was perfect for Mohammedan and a non-performing Jayasuriya to end a dismal run in the league so far. The champion Sri Lankan left-hander, who scored two and nine in his previous two games, started in style by sending the depleted Abahani attack to the ropes before Mashrafe's off-spin stopped him on 42 in front of a sparse crowd at the big bowl.
His departure saw Mohammedan collapse from a prosperous 144 for 4 to 198 all out in 47.4 overs. They lost their last six wickets for 54 runs.
Holders Abahani were understandably cautious in their chase of the moderate target and they were in pole position until excitement crept when they were left to score 21 runs from the last three overs.
But man-of-the-match Sahagir Hossain finished the chase in style by clubbing two consecutive boundaries after Mashrafe hit the first against pacer Tareq Aziz in the penultimate over as Abahani posted 201 for 5 with seven balls to spare.
The wicketkeeper-batsman, Sahagir was unbeaten on 41 and hit three fours and a six during his 52-ball knock but it was Abahani's new Indian recruit Ranjan PR Parida who shared a vital 74 runs with Imran Ahmed for the third wicket to steady the ship after the departure of two openers -- Tamim Iqbal (24) and Rony Talukdar (4) -- for 41 runs.
The right-hander from Orissa fell victim of an unfortunate run out for 46 that came from 64 deliveries with the help of five sweetly-timed boundaries.
But it could have been a different story had Rokibul, who was earlier run out for a duck for unnecessarily chasing a single, not dropped the Indian at extra cover off Sohrawordi Shuvo when he was on 20.
Imran made 38 off 80 balls with two fours before left-arm pacer Sajedul Islam bowled him.
Earlier, Jayasuriya and Nadimuddin gave Mohammedan a watchful start before the veteran Sri Lankan cut loose. The left-hander was particularly savage against Abahani's reserve paceman Shahadat Hossain during his 40-ball 42.
Jayasuriya smashed four boundaries and two big sixes -- one each against Shahadat and left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny -- before Mashrafe removed the dangerman in his very first over. Jayasuriya charged down the wicket, looking for another big six but was caught at midwicket by Rony much to the relief of the Abahani tent.
Mohammedan suddenly lost their way after two stupid run out dismissals of Farhad Hossain (47 off 81 balls) and Rokibul while Arafat Sunny caused the damage in the middle by taking three wickets, evaporating Mohammedan's chances of crossing the 200-mark as well as using their full quota of overs.
"I think boys showed great characters today. I told everybody to enjoy the game and forget about injury problems and they did exactly that. I think it's all about courage which helped us to win the game," said a delighted Mashrafe after the match.
MOHAMMEDAN: 198 all out in 47.4 overs (Nadimuddin 22, Jayasuriya 42, Farhad 47, Marshal 27, Faisal 27, extras 15: Nasir 1-22, Sunny 3-43, Mashrafe 2-35, Rezaul 1-33)
ABAHANI: 201-5 in 48.5 overs (Tamim 24, Rony 4, Imran 38, Ranjan 46, Sahagir 41 not out, Nasir 13, Mashrafe 11 not out, extras 24; Jayasuriya 1-33, Shuvo 1-28, Farhad 1-18, Sajedul 1-30)
Result: Abahani won by five wickets.