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December 31, 2008
There was heartbreak in store for either Barisal or Rajshahi in the last round, and the title was not decided until the final session. A victory would have given Barisal their first National League trophy, which many thought they deserved for the consistency and enthusiasm their young brigade brought to the competition despite being written off at the start of the season. But their hopes were dashed by Dhaka's Mahmudullah, whose phenomenal effort denied them a win. The result meant the top two, Rajshahi and Barisal, finished equal on points (101), but it was Rajshahi who were celebrating at home despite losing to Khulna as they had one more outright win (5) than Barisal and were declared champions in accordance to the tournament rules. Chittagong, meanwhile, ensured Sylhet would remain winless in a season both sides would wish to forget.
Though Barisal had a point more than Rajshahi at the start of the final round, their title hopes depended on a win over a lacklustre Dhaka in Fatullah and on Khulna beating Rajshahi It didn't quite follow the script. Barisal's batsmen collapsed against left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny, who took 7 for 50. In reply to Barisal's 125, Dhaka scraped to a 50-run lead on day two with Javed Omar scoring 62. However, the lead advantage was promptly wiped out as opener Rony Talukder and Imran Ahmed, the Barisal captain, made half-centuries. Ashraful Haque's five-for kept Barisal to 265. The target of 216 was gettable but Dhaka lost three wickets before stumps on day three.
Monoar Hossain's four-wicket burst left Dhaka reeling on 95 for 8 by lunch on the final day but the stage was set for a twist. Barisal could not call on fast bowler Talha Jubair, who suffered a rib strain after bowling two deliveries in the morning, but even without him victory appeared a mere formality. Having scored a hundred in Dhaka's previous three matches, the in-form Mahmudullah made Barisal pay for a dropped catch at gully, when on 3, and partnered Elias Sunny (37 not out) in an unbroken 124-run stand as Dhaka snatched an unexpected two-wicket win. Mahmudullah continued his amazing run of form, piling up his fourth century (116 not out off 306 balls) to finish second to Chittagong's Faisal Hossain in the list of highest run-getters.
Rajshahi were playing catch-up for the most part against Khulna, despite a good first day Rajshahi Stadium. Suhrawadi Shuvo, the league's leading wicket-taker, took 6 for 71 as Khulna made 255 for 9 declared in their first innings. Day two belonged to Robiul Islam, who picked up 5 for 68 as Rajshahi were bowled out for 251. Khulna extended their lead to 75 by close for the loss of three wickets, with Shuvo striking twice. Half-centuries from Fariduddin and Dolar Mahmud took Khulna to 347. Set 252, Rajshahi were 23 for 1 going into the final day. Anisur Rahman (71), Hamidul Islam (53) and Shabbir Rahman (72) scored half-centuries, but the home team still fell 29 short of their target. Celebrations, though, had already begun before the match ended, as the news of Dhaka's win over Barisal assured the hosts of the title.
In Chittagong, an unbeaten 120 from captain Masumud Dowla allowed the home team to score a formidable 382 in the first innings. Sylhet then crumbled to 268 against the hostile pace of Rubel Hossain, who was playing his first first-class match following a shin injury. Rubel's 5 for 60 was even more remarkable considering he was bowling on the flattest track in the domestic circuit. Chittagong struggled in their second innings before declaring on 185 for 7 after a delayed start on day four. Sylhet, set a target of 300, were 65 for 4 in 11 overs when the match ended.
Player of the week - Suhrawadi Shuvo
Without his six wickets on day one, Rajshahi would not have got the three bowling bonus points that let them finish on top with Barisal at the end of the round. Shuvo took wickets at will and made runs at crucial junctures and was the standout performer for the newly-crowned champions.
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