The pressure of playing in front of their home crowd transformed into inspiration yesterday as Chittagong Vikings bagged the third playoff place with an 11-run win over Dhaka Dynamites at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chattogram.
In the second game of the last day of the Chattogram leg of the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), Rajshahi Kings kept their playoff hopes alive by making a mockery of a stiff target of 190 set by Sylhet Sixers, which they chased with five wickets and two overs to spare. Rajshahi's last group game left them in fourth place with 12 points, two more than Dhaka. Dhaka, however, have two games in hand and a much superior net run rate, so they could still realistically go past Rajshahi with one more win.
For Sylhet, their seventh loss in 11 games meant that they were out of the playoff race.
Both sides came into the day game on the back of three consecutive losses. Chittagong were still missing key man Robbie Frylinck but they overcame that lack of impact in the batting order with Cameron Delport playing an anchor role after Chittagong elected to bat first.
The left-hander started slowly but carried his bat almost to the end of the innings. Skipper Mushfiqur Rahim had been off colour in the recent defeats but he changed the tempo with a brilliant knock, playing some magnificent shots to up the ante. Delport got into gear from the 10th over onwards and accelerated with Mushfiqur to put on a 79-run partnership for the third wicket. Andre Russel's hattrick in the 20th over restricted Chittagong to a challenging total of 174 for five.
During Dhaka's chase, Chittagong pacer Abu Jayed -- now behind only Sylhet's Taskin Ahmed in the edition's wicket-takers' list -- showed his mettle with the new ball, bagging the two early wickets of Sunil Narine and Rony Talukdar to put pressure on Shakib Al Hasan's struggling side. Shakib and Nurul Hasan then stepped on the accelerator with a 50-run fourth-wicket stand before Delport trapped the latter in front.
With Andre Russell, Shakib steered them close but even after a poor fielding display, Chittagong clawed their way back and came away with a win. Shakib's side must now find a means to stop the rot and with two games to come in Dhaka, they must correct deficiencies in the top order. Hazatullah Zazai came on strongly in the first half of the tournament but his powers have waned at the business end while Sunil Narine did not deliver as Dhaka would like him to. Their hopes rest on Shakib, Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell while Rubel Hossain's consistency should give the Dynamites cause for hope for the Dhaka phase.
The night game promised to be as exciting as the day one after Nicholas Pooran's 31-ball 76 powered Sylhet to 189 for five. That total seemed a tough one when Rajshahi fell to 64 for three in the ninth over, but Laurie Evans (76 off 36) and Ryan ten Doeschate (42 off 18) swiftly changed the complexion with a 109-run fourth-wicket stand in just 7.3 overs. Even after both were out in the 17th over, Rajshahi needed just 13 runs off 22 balls, which they managed without fuss.
SCORES IN BRIEF
SYLHET: 189 for 5 in 20 overs (Afif 29, Sabbir 45, Pooran 76 not out; Kamrul 2-30)
RAJSHAHI: 190 for 5 in 18 overs (Charles 39, Evans 76, Ten Doeschate 42; Tanvir 2-27, Kapali 2-41)
Result: Rajshahi won by 5 wickets.
Player-of-the-match: Laurie Evans.