Dhaka make final despite Shakib
Dhaka Gladiators 191 for 4 (Mahmood 65, Ashraful 47*, Nazir 41) beat Khulna Royal Bengals (Shakib 86*, Sunny 3-29) by nine runs
Dhaka Gladiators made it to the final of the Bangladesh Premier League with a nine-run victory over Khulna Royal Bengals in the second semi-final, in front of a packed Shere Bangla National Stadium that backed the home team as well as could be expected. Dhaka successfully defended their total of 191 for 4, Khulan making 183 for 7 in 20 overs. Khulna threatened Dhaka for a good part of the chase, courtesy a rapid knock from their captain, Shakib Al Hasan - he scored his first Twenty20 half-century, an unbeaten 86 off 41 balls - but it just wasn't enough to see the team through.
After a revamped Dhaka - Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal and Awais Zia flew in from Dubai in time for the match, following the conclusion of Pakistan's series against England - chose to bat, Khulna bowled quite poorly from the onset. Dhaka lost the big-hitting Zia and Nazimuddin by the time they got to 22, but then Pakistan's Imran Nazir smashed 41 off 25 balls with six fours and two sixes to steady them. Nazir fell in the eighth over to another Pakistan player who had arrived at the BPL just in time for the knock-outs - Mohammad Hafeez.
Dhaka's total was chiefly built around a 72-run fourth-wicket stand between Mohammad Ashraful and Azhar Mahmood, who made 65 off 39 balls with six fours and three sixes. Ashraful struck four boundaries and a six in his 33-ball 47. Afridi came in towards the end and provided the final surge, with an 11-ball 27. He was particularly harsh on Shakib, hammering 19 in the left-arm spinner's last over.
In the chase, Khulna lost their overseas batsmen (Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Herschelle Gibbs, Hafeez and Dwayne Smith) within eight overs, but Shakib and Nasir Hossain held on for a fine fifth-wicket stand of 87. Shakib was deprived of a few well-struck runs when two of his straight-drives hit Nasir and the stumps. Yet, he managed to reach his half-century off 22 balls. Big swings to the leg side apart, he gathered runs through flicks, sweeps and scoops off Elias Sunny, Ajmal and Afridi.
The thirty-one required off the final over, though, proved just beyond Shakib's reach - he could manage only 21 runs off Azhar Mahmood. Sunny shone with the ball, taking 3-29 - a credible showing, especially with two top-quality spinners playing alongside him.