Mahedi, Rashid spin Comilla to fourth successive win
Comilla Victorians 153 for 6 (Kayes 47, Samuels 41, Mashrafe 2-22, Thisara 2-26) beat Rangpur Riders 139 for 7 (Bopara 48*, Mahedi 2-15, Rashid 2-19) by 14 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Comilla Victorians' spin duo of Mahedi Hasan and Rashid Khan returned combined figures of 4 for 34 in eight overs to fire their team to a fourth successive win in the 2017-18 BPL and rise to second spot on the table. In a match whose value shot up simply by the presence of the number of marquee names, Comilla defended a total of 153 for 6 to beat Rangpur Riders by 14 runs in font of a packed Shere Bangla National Stadium.
Rangpur were severely bolstered by the arrivals of Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum. But their explosive power at the top could not come to their aid in a chase of 154. Rashid, the 19-year old legspinner, struck with his second ball, trapping Gayle lbw and opening the gates, as Rangpur never quite recovered.
Comilla's innings was built around Imrul Kayes' 32-ball 47 at the top, followed by a more sedate 41 off 34 balls from Marlon Samuels. Mashrafe Mortaza led his attack brilliantly, snaring 2 for 22 in four overs, while Thisara Perera's 2 for 26 saw him become the Sri Lankan, after Lasith Malinga, to take 200 wickets in T20 cricket.
Mashrafe calls the early shots
Comilla boast a top four that can pack quite a punch, but for all their hitting prowess, Tamim Iqbal, Liton Das and Jos Buttler combined for a total of 33 runs and fell well inside the first half of their innings. Rubel Hossain struck first when he got rid of Tamim Iqbal after getting spanked for a brace of fours earlier in the over. Mashrafe then struck twice in three balls. First, Liton Das desperately charged down and swung clumsily to lose his middle stump. Then, with the second ball of his next over, Mashrafe had Buttler trapped in front of middle and off after the batsman looked to play across the line. Comilla were reduced to 55 for 3 in the ninth over.
Kayes keeps Comilla ticking
From 55 for 3, Kayes and Samuels steered them to 100, adding 45 runs for the fourth wicket. Kayes' knock wasn't the most convincing one, but it served its purpose and set Comilla up nicely for the slog overs. He went on to become Thisara Perera's 200th scalp, when somelate reverse swing took out his leg stump.
Samuels continued to find the boundary at timely intervals, before he too fell to Perera, reaching out to a wide yorker and nicking off to the keeper. Samuels struck four fours and a six in his knock. Mohammad Saifuddin launched the final over of the innings with a six and a four against Rubel as Comilla pinched 14 runs off it and crossed the 150 mark.
Gayle and McCullum's rocky start
Perhaps the biggest talking point heading into this game was Gayle and McCullum joining forces at the top of the order for Rangpur. While the duo would make for a potent partnership on most days, Comilla chose to counter them by opening the bowling with the off-spin of Mahedi. The young offspinner pinged Gayle's pad with the first ball he bowled to the left-hander. Though it looked dead plumb to the naked eye, umpire Ranmore Martinsez refused to budge despite Comilla desperately pleading with him. Replays later showed that the ball was heading towards Gayle's legstump.
Mahedi's first over had cost just 1, but Brendon McCullum reversed the pressure on Comilla by crunching a six and a four in the next over, off Al-Amin Hossain. Mahedi was then denied a wicket for a second time when McCullum got down to sweep him and the ball just about shaved his legstump. Two deliveries after that, Hasan Ali had Gayle dropped off his bowling when Liton Das failed to latch on to a catch after running back. With Gayle punishing Hasan for three fours in the over, it seemed as though Comilla would be left to pay a heavy price for the lapses.
Rashid, Mahedi rip through Rangpur
Rashid Khan's introduction immediately added a sense of eagerness to the game. The potential of a contest between two of the heaviest hitters and the opposition's most wily bowler was exciting. Two balls were all it took for Rashid to come out on top of that one as he got one to skid into Gayle's pads. Gayle, however, wasn't second-time lucky as the umpire gave him out despite the ball having pitched outside leg. Two balls later, he had Kusal Perera sweeping at a googly and top-edge to backward square leg.
Mahedi followed it up with a double-strike of his own in the next over. McCullum charged down to a length ball and got nowhere to the pitch of the delivery to be stumped. Shahriar Nafees had his off-stump flattened with one that gripped and turned, and Rangpur had lost four wickets in eight balls.
Ravi Bopara survived on 1 when Kayes couldn't hold on to a spectacular effort at first slip. Thereafter, he and Mohammad Mithun got down to rebuilding Rangpur's innings, although Comilla's bowlers greatly slowed things down. By the time the partnership was broken, when Mithun drove Al-Amin Hossain straight to Tamim at extra cover, they had added 67. But in the face of a mounting required rate, the partnership did not have its desired impact, as Rangpur were left requiring 55 runs off the remaining 28 balls.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84