In front of a capacity crowd, Rajshahi Rangers put up a clinical display to emerge champions of the Destiny Group National Cricket League T20s with a six-wicket victory over the Kings of Khulna in an entertaining final at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur yesterday.
Seasoned campaigner Khaled Mashud, for the second successive occasion in this season, came up trumps against his young counterpart Shakib Al Hasan after a dramatic win in the Premier Division League deciding match at the same venue. It came as a double delight for Mashud as under his leadership Rajshahi also became champions in the four-day competition of the National Cricket League.
Contesting the tournament's average total, Khulna set a challenging target of 162 for their opponents after deciding to bat first on a slow pitch.
However, Shuvagoto Hom (62) and Pakistani Kaiser Abbas (61 not out) shared 109 runs in a fourth wicket stand to reach the target of 163 with four balls remaining.
Shuvagoto holds the record of the fastest fifty in the tournament, and his innings was instrumental in the game. When the man from Mymensingh departed in the last ball of the penultimate over of the match, Rajshahi just required another seven runs for victory.
The right-hander offered a return catch to Elias Sunny and departed after a 49 ball knock that contained four boundaries and two sixes.
Khulna pacer Dollar Mahmud stood in the way but a misfield from Elias Sunny gifted a boundary to Abbas in the very first delivery of the over, all but killing Khulna's last hope. Left-handed Abbas finished the job in style hitting a boundary through point off the second delivery to set Rajshahi players dancing to celebrate their success.
Initially however, Australian Aiden Blizzard and Junaed Siddiqui had set the tone in the chase of a tricky target as the southpaw openers collected 14 runs from the first over of spinner Forhad Hossain.
Shakib brought back his side in contention removing dangerman Blizzard who offered a catch to wicketkeeper Mohammad Mithun for 15 runs.
Left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak then dismissed Junaed who was caught at mid-off for a 11-ball 18 and the Rajshahi crisis was deepened when the experienced Razzak trapped Hannan Sarker in front for four runs as Rajshahi were reduced to 46 for 3.
It was then the story of Hom and Abbas who defied any further damage and took the team to the safety. Abbas was not out on 61 off 44 balls that contained nine sweetly timed boundaries and a six.
On papers the final was contested between two underdogs but there was no shortage of excitement for the fans from the word go as there was some big hitting display in the first innings and particularly a stunning catch from Shafiul Islam will be long remembered.
Shafiul's effort to remove South Africa's Ryan Bailey was later adjudged the best catch in the tournament.
Khulna's innings didn't see any big knocks from any batsman but there were some notable contributions which enabled them to put up a decent total of 161 for six in their share of 20 overs.
South Africa international Alviro Petersen top scored with 34 while his opening partner Imrul Kayes added 24. But it was Mohammad Mithun who ignited the crowd first by hitting a big six over long on against left-arm spinner Sanjamul Haque.
Captain Shakib Al Hasan , who made 27, played an eye-catching over boundary through extra cover and finally it was Alauddin Babu whose big-hitting display powered Khulna to set up a challenging total. Babu clobbered two sixes and a four to make an unbeaten six-ball 20.
SCORES IN BRIEF
KINGS OF KHULNA: 161-6 in 20 overs (Kayes 24, Petersen 34, Mithun 20, Ryan 15, Shakib 27, Dollar 17 not out, Babu 20 not out; Naeem 1-21, Sanjamul 1-32, Abbas 2-24, Mukter 2-20).
RAJSHAHI RANGERS: 163-4 in 19.2 overs (Blizzard 15, Junaed 18, Shuvagoto 62, Abbas 61 not out; Shakib 1-28, Razzak 2-21, Sunny 1-24)
Result: Rajshahi Rangers won by six wickets.
Man-of-the-match: Kaiser Abbas.