Mahmood, Hodge power Barisal to victory
Barisal Burners 148 for 3 (Hodge 63, Mahmood 52*) beat Khulna Royal
Bengals 145 for 7 (Nafees 66, Mahmood 3-23) by seven wickets
Barisal Burners came out on top in the battle to avoid the bottom spot in the league, thanks to Azhar Mahmood's all-round performance. They crushed Khulna Royal Bengals by seven wickets to remain in contention for a top-four finish, while the Royal Bengals are more or less out of the race.
The Burners captain Brad Hodge made it an easy passage for his team. His 63 off 47 balls led the chase of 145. Hodge hit six fours and two sixes over long-on, using the pace of the bowlers whenever it was offered on a slow wicket, but mostly worked the angles to collect singles.
He added 93 for the third wicket with Azhar Mahmood, who was unbeaten on a 33-ball 52 with seven boundaries and a six. The experienced pair sensibly played out the dangerous Shapoor Zadran before attacking the rest of the bowlers, who looked insipid at most times. Hodge and Mahmood batted at more than 10 an over, making sure the target was reached in 17.5 overs.
Mahmood had success with the ball too, taking 3 for 23 to keep the Royal Bengals to a sub-150 score. After bowling tightly with the new ball, he picked up three wickets in his last two overs, including the top-scorer Shahriar Nafees. The three-wicket burst stifled the Royal Bengals in the final few overs.
Nafees had made 66 off 50 balls with nine boundaries, but never got support after Nazimuddin fell in the ninth over. Before his dismissal, Nazimuddin had blasted two boundaries and two sixes in his 30-ball 33, but after the opening partnership was broken, their foreign batsmen in the middle-order failed. Once Travis Birt, Daniel Harris and Riki Wessels were removed, the lower order hardly made an impression.
Apart from Mahmood, Alok Kapali and newcomer Farveez Maharoof took two wickets each.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent