Khulna hold their nerve to pip Rajshahi
Khulna secured the National League title with a 63-win over Barisal while nearest rivals Rajshahi slumped to defeat at Dhaka. It was their first triumph in five years and represented a remarkable turnaround by a side who finished bottom of the league last season.
Khulna started the final round of matches with a one-point lead over Rajshahi. The key game was in Dhaka where Rajshahi appeared to be on course for a draw until dramatically collapsing on the third afternoon as Dhaka's left-arm spinner Mosharraf Hossain took 6 for 13 to bowl them out for 77. Dhaka, chasing 130, had problems of their own as they slid to 91 for 7 before Mahmudullah Riyad and stand-in skipper Mohammad Sharif guided them to a three-wicket win on the stroke of tea. Sharif ended the match in emphatic style, launching two massive sixes over long-off.
Bizarrely, at the end of the game Khaled Mashud, Rajshahi's captain, led his team's celebrations, telling bemused reporters that they were happy as they had secured the one-day title with a week to spare.
As news of that result filtered through to Khulna, where the home side had surrendered a small first-innings lead, the tension mounted as Barisal reached 187 for 5 in pursuit of a target of 302. Anything other than a win would still have handed the title to Rajshahi, but the bowlers kept their nerve and the last five wickets fell for 51 runs.
"We were confident because it was difficult to score near 300 on the fourth-day pitch," stand-in Khulna skipper Nahidul Haque told The Daily Star. "We were hardly bothered about what happened in Dhaka rather our main target was to win the match."
The third match was one played in almost complete anonymity as Chittagong beat Sylhet by seven wickets at the Fatullah Stadium. Nazimuddin, who finished the top scorer in the league with 720 runs, led Chittagong's chase of a target of 237
The only downer on the season finale was the absence of national players, on duty in New Zealand. "There had been too much talking about our strength without the national players but we have proved it all rubbish," Haque told the paper. "We proved that we have a number of good players in the team."