The special Bangabandhu Bangladesh Premier League started off on a low note, with the matches initially not being very competitive. That was one of the biggest reasons for the small turnout of spectators, especially at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur.
But as the tournament progressed, the competitiveness between the top teams started to rise and the BBPL produced some of the most interesting encounters in the latter stages, which in turn created a lot of hype among the fans and supporters as the title showdown approached.
It began with the last group phase game between Dhaka Platoon and Khulna Tigers, during which Nazmul Hossain Shanto became the first local player to strike a century in this edition. Nazmul’s blistering hundred helped Khulna register the highest successful chase in the history of the tournament when they overcame Dhaka’s 205 for four with eight wickets and 11 balls to spare. The heroic finish from skipper Andre Russell, which guided Rajshahi to a scintillating two wicket win and a place in the final, in a nail-biting encounter against Chattogram Challengers in the second qualifier on Wednesday added to the much-needed entertainment aspect that is the currency of any T20 tournament.
Yesterday’s final between Khulna and Rajshahi was building up to yet another exciting finish as the crowd turned up in huge numbers at a jam-packed SBNS. The demand for tickets was sky high, with hundreds of fans waiting outside the stadium premises.
One could hardly forget the final of the previous edition, when Tamim Iqbal struck a magnificent hundred as Comilla Victorians clinched the title by beating Dhaka Dynamites in a high-scoring affair. Yesterday, it was once again Russell who inspired his side after a slow start as the West Indian, alongside Pakistani Mohammad Nawaz, helped Rajshahi post a fighting 170 for 4.
Russell remained unbeaten on 27 off 16 balls while Nawaz was not out on a 20-ball 41, which featured two sixes and six fours, as Rajshahi posted 70 runs in the last five overs of the innings.
The atmosphere was electric at the home of cricket in Mirpur and it should also be mentioned that the high standard of the cricket on display was one of the major contributing factors.
There was some terrific catching, some brilliant bowling spells and big hitting – Irfan Sukkur’s 35-ball 52 should also be applauded as it set the stage for the late charge by Russell and Nawaz, making it difficult for Khulna skipper Mushfiqur Rahim to bag his maiden BPL title.
The BCB had invited ICC President Shashank Manohar as a special guest for the final of the previous edition and this time it was Cricket Australia’s CEO Kevin Roberts who attended the final as the special guest. Although there had been a lot of criticism after the BCB decided to organise the BPL this season on their own accord, scrapping the franchise system, but as things seemed to be shaping up for the finale, the special edition picked up pace at just the right moment.