Sylhet Royals v Barisal Burners, BPL 2012, Mirpur February 10, 2012

Gayle lights up opening day

When Brendon McCullum hit that brutal 158* four years ago, he gave the Indian Premier League some cricketing cred, to match the marketing hype, on its opening day. With the Bangladesh Premier League positioned as a mini-IPL, Chris Gayle's 101* in its first game, naturally demanded comparison.

But more than just some cricketing legitimacy, especially after the awful opening ceremony the day before, the poor turnout at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium on Friday and a general lack of big Twenty20 stars, it provided BPL a lift it so dearly needs despite the organisers' blanket marketing in the build-up.

With the minimum ticket prices set at a high Tk 500 (approx $6), some fans were bond to be deterred (though it has been reduced to Tk 200 from the second day). The opening ceremony too -- three hours long and reflecting very little of local culture was criticised by the media and lampooned on social networks - was another major deterrent.

That only a few stands filled up on what is a weekly holiday was staggering when one considers that an important club game still brings a crowd to the Mirpur venue. But Gayle certainly enjoyed himself, so too those who turned up as they were treated to some superb hitting by the Jamaican, who took just 44 balls to reach his century for Barisal Burners, beating his previous best (46-ball ton for Royal Challengers Bangalore).

The Sylhet Royals batsmen first got the crowd going with a few sixes in their 165 for 4. Gayle then kept the volume up. He made the fans wait 16 deliveries before striking two sixes in a row off a Scott Styris over that cost 27 runs. From then on, Ahmed Shehzad, who had hit the first six of the innings off Rubel Hossain, let Gayle do all the talking.

After another six off Styris, Gayle found Peter Trego's gentle pace to his liking, hammering the Sylhet captain over long-on three times, one higher than the next. Twenty-three runs came off that tenth over and Alok Kapali was given the same treatment in his first. Two more consecutive sixes high over long-off, before legspinner Noor Hossain served up a long hop that was duly deposited into the mid-wicket stands; hitting the grandstand roof.

"The bowler was probably under a bit more pressure. I think that's what actually happened to get a long hop," said Gayle after the chase was wrapped up in less than an hour. "I would have taken the chance, regardless. Five runs left, legspinner came on. I knew I got a chance. Glad I didn't miss out on it."

The BPL is glad it didn't miss out on Gayle, even if it is for only five days, which could provide the league enough momentum for the next two weeks.

Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka