Rajshahi set-up thrilling final round
National Four-Day League
Rajshahi's impressive home win over top side Khulna brought down the gap to two points and opened up the exciting prospect of a nail-biting final round with both teams capable of securing the championship. Third placed Dhaka failed to put more pressure on the leaders with a draw against Chittagong while Barisal came up with a creditable victory against an uninspiring Sylhet.
Rajshahi were in trouble from the start in Rajshahi after being put in by Khulna and lost their prolific duo Jahurul Islam and Farhad Hossain with 6 on the board. It didn't get any better for them and despite opener Shakil Haider's 61 they were all out for 188 after tea with Khulna's quick bowlers and spinners all getting among the wickets. Khulna, now without captain Habibul Bashar who left for New Zealand to join the Test squad, also found batting difficult and ended day one on 21 for 2. Against the seam bowling of Delwar Hossain and the part-time spin of Farhad Hossain they crumbled before declaring at 151 for 9 to deny the home team the bowling bonus point. Rajshahi were firmly back in the match and with half centuries from Jahurul (61) and Anisur Rahman (64) and a plucky 48 from captain Khaled Mashud they set Khulna a challenging 322. The visitors required 266 on the final day and Mostafizur Rahman (57) and Jamaluddin (87) gave them hope before Saqlain Sajib, the left-arm spinner, ran through the order with 6 for 101 and ended a last-wicket stand that yielded 55 and pulled Khulna within 29 runs.
Chittagong decided to bat in Chittagong and were ruing the decision at tea when they were bundled out for 98 by Dhaka. Paceman Mohammad Sharif took 3 for 11 and left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny returned 3 for 28 to usher the Chittagong collapse. But Dhaka had too many cameos and not enough substance for comfort from the top order and seemingly squandered the advantage when the struggled at 212 for 8. It took an uncharacteristically steady 95 not out from No. 9 Nazmul Hossain Milon, who comes with the reputation of a six-hitter, to carry Dhaka to 316. Chittagong looked dead and buried when they finished the second day on 26 for 3 in their second innings but day three was a different story. Opener Masumud Dowla reached his first hundred of the season just before stumps and was involved in a 140-run fourth-wicket stand with Nazimuddin (80) in a Chittagong effort of 259 for 4. The next day Dowla (118) and captain Ehsanul Haque (117) stretched their fifth-wicket partnership to 196 and left Dhaka with just under a session to get an improbable 219. Dhaka batted for 21.4 overs and made 130 for 4.
In Bogra Barisal took the field without captain Shahariar Nafees and pace spearhead Sajedul Islam, both on national duty, and Sajedul's new-ball partner Talha Jubair who also had to pull out but it mattered little as they swept to an-innings-and 34-run win against Sylhet. Put in on a rain-interrupted first day Sylhet were on the back foot at 149 for 8 by close. Sylhet limped to 183 and Barisal were in charge when they finished the second day on 118 for 2. It became even better for them as Nasiruddin Faruque (77), Hannan Sarker (70), Imran Ahmed (70 not out) and Abul Bashar (82 not out) dominated the poor Sylhet bowling before stand-in captain Imran declared on 383 for 5. In the six overs available on day three Sylhet had lost 2 for 4. Imtiaz Hossain and Golam Mabud both made 57 but Sylhet were blown away on the last day for 155 giving Barisal a resounding innings-and-34-run win.
With Rajshahi already securing the title the only interest remaining was with who would finish second. The champions elected to bat at Rajshahi but found Khulna too hot to handle as Ziaur Rahman (4 for 39), Monjurul Islam (2 for 32) and Robiul Islam (4 for 7) ripped through their batting order. Rajshahi were bundled out for 79 and Khulna eased home in 23 overs with six wickets in hand.
Dhaka joined Khulna on 10 points after an exciting one-run victory against Chittagong in Chittagong. Sent in Dhaka managed 248 for 8 with No. 3 Mosharaf Hossain making 51 and useful contributions coming from Mahmudullah Riyad (45), Anwar Hossain (41) and Nadif Chowdhury (39). Chittagong were cruising towards the target with Nazimuddin (51) and Faisal Hossain leading the way before Mohammad Sharif (4 for 44) decided to step in. With Chittagong on 232 for 4 in 46 overs Sharif removed Dhiman Ghosh with the first ball of the 47th over. In his next over Sharif bowled Faisal for 86 and had Rezaul Karim lbw off successive deliveries before running out Mohammad Younus off the penultimate ball of the match.
Alok Kapali's 80 was the only innings of note in Sylhet's 207 against Barisal at Bogra. Raquibul Hasan's 78 and Arafat Salahuddin's 57 kept Barisal on track before they made a hash of the chase and lost the last three wickets on 195.
Player of the week - Arafat Salahuddin (Barisal)
In the four-dayer Arafat's bowling was instrumental in his team's thumping win against Sylhet. Bowling his outswingers with great control he returned match figures of 8 for 92. Arafat was even more influential in the one-dayer where he took three wickets and then made a battling 57 albeit in a lost cause.
Rabeed Imam is editor of TigerCricket.com