Najmul Hossain Shanto’s brilliant unbeaten 78, complemented well by a deadly Mohammad Amir spell, helped Khulna Tigers to become the first team to confirm their spot in the final of the ongoing Bangabandhu Bangladesh Premier League (BBPL), beating Rajshahi Royals by 27 runs despite Shoaib Malik’s gritty 50-ball 80 at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur today.
Rajshahi will however get another chance to make it to the final when Andre Russell’s men play Chattogram Challengers in the second qualifier day after tomorrow in Mirpur.
Amir, who bagged six for 17 -- the best-ever figure in BPL history, removed Rajshahi opener Liton Das in the very first over. A typical delivery from the left-hander had nipped back just a wee bit to outsmart the in-form Liton before castling him. Next over, Amir picked up Afif Hossain and Alok Kapali to leave Rajshahi reeling at 23 for three after 4 overs.
Ravi Bopara soon fell and then Amir removed skipper Andre Russell in the sixth over. Malik produced an astounding 74-run partnership with Taijul Islam for the seventh wicket but Amir thwarted any chance of a comeback, removing both in the 18th over as Rajshahi were bowled out for 131.
Earlier, Najmul, who became the first Bangladeshi batsman to have scored a century in the ongoing BBPL, smashing an unbeaten 115 to orchestrate the highest-ever chase in BPL history against Dhaka Platoon on Saturday, shone once again in today's qualifier.
Although, the 21-year-old youngster hit a 57-ball 78 to help Khulna post a modest 158 for three, could consider himself lucky.
Najmul, who was on nine off 10 deliveries, was deceived and saw his stumps rattled off a Shoaib Malik delivery in the sixth over. To his relief, replays showed that Malik overstepped and the left-hander survived. He was then dropped on 57 with Afif Hossain the culprit off a Ravi Bopara delivery in the 15th over.
But despite riding on his luck a couple of times, a confident Najmul looked exquisite for the rest of his innings that was laced with seven fours and four maximums. Khulna’s total might have been a bit different if skipper Mushfiqur Rahim continued till the end. Mushfiqur, who scored a 16-ball 21, was forced to leave the field clutching his leg after suffering a cramp in the penultimate over, but the skipper returned to his wicketkeeping duties after the exchange. For Rajshahi, Mohammad Irfan remained the most impressive bowler, returning figures of two for 13.