Mahmudullah steals a thriller for Titans
There are times when Mahmudullah Riyad is forced to take the back seat whenever Bangladesh cricket's main four take the podium.
He has not achieved what Mashrafe bin Mortaza has as a captain, neither is he as trusted an all-rounder as Shakib Al Hasan. He lacks the flashiness of Tamim Iqbal and is not as flawless in his drives like Mushfiqur Rahim.
But it is absolutely amazing how Riyad has transformed himself in the last two years. Just think about it from the national team's context. There are so many players in the fray who can bat and bowl off-spinners at the same time, and yet, due to his improvement in the last two years, he has managed to stay a grade ahead of the rest.
The stage that he has reached today would have been unthinkable to many who had followed his game prior to 2015. He has gone on to become one of the most trusted players of the national team, oozing confidence whenever given the opportunity.
It was a glimpse of that confidence that the sparse crowd at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium got to see yesterday during Khulna Titans' thrilling three-run win over the Rajshahi Kings.
Rajshahi had reached 120 for five in 17.4 overs and with a target of 134 the match was seemingly in the bag. However, Mominul Haque, who had batted brilliantly for his 57-ball 64 suddenly lost his cool and got himself caught behind off Shafiul Islam while trying to unnecessarily scoop one over the keeper.
That is when Rajshahi began to collapse. Riyad brilliantly caught the experienced Forhad Reza at cover in the 19th over. He took a few steps back and put in a backwards dive of sorts to hold on to that catch.
That brought the equation down to seven required off the last over with three wickets in hand. With Riyad having used up his key death bowlers Shafiul Islam and Junaid Khan, he decided to bowl himself. He could have used the remaining specialist bowler in Shuvagata Hom or given the responsibility to someone like Alok Kapali but instead, he took the brave decision of bowling himself.
The first two deliveries were driven for singles and the third one was a wide. It was something that frustrated Riyad and he argued with the umpire for a few seconds. But that did not deter his focus.
He bowled a full-length delivery and got Abul Hasan caught straight down the ground. The next one was a shorter ball that turned and skidded its way past Mohammad Sami's bat and into the stumps.
With four runs required off two balls, Nazmul Islam tried to reverse sweep but missed the delivery.
While the first five balls were completed in a jiffy, Riyad needed what seemed like an eternity to bowl his last delivery of the game.
He changed his field and then modified it again and then stopped on his bowling mark to see what kind of a stroke the batsman would try. Surprisingly, Nazmul was planning to go for the reverse yet again.
Eventually, Riyad bowled a quick straighter delivery, got Nazmul stumped and delivered a thrilling three-run win that seemed impossible only three overs ago.
Earlier in the day, both Riyad and Riki Wessels had posted 32 each to lead the Titans to 133. Abul Hasan, who finished with five for 28 and got a number of wickets due to the back-of-the-hand slower delivery that he bowls so well, was the chief destroyer.
After the exchange, Mominul's 64, which witnessed six fours and Darren Sammy's 23-ball 31, initially seemed to be taking Rajshahi home, before the game changed towards the end.