Central Zone bag first BCL title
Central Zone 277 (Raqibul 125, Farhad 4-18) and 247 (Raqibul 68, Sanjamul 8-73) beat North Zone 274 (Nasir 74, Mosharraf 4-65) and 219 (Jahurul 81, Sunny 3-26) by 31 runs
Central Zone clinched the first-ever Bangladesh Cricket League first-class competition title, beating North Zone by 31 runs on the fourth day of the final in Mirpur on Monday.
In an evenly matched contest, Central Zone had a few standout performances. Dropped from the Bangladesh side, batsman Raqibul Hasan scored 125 and 68, guiding his team to positions of strength after shaky starts.
In the first innings, Central Zone started poorly after being asked to bat first. Raqibul took charge, scoring a century in just under four hours. He made 125 off 204 balls, hitting 18 fours and a six in the process. Despite the big score, Central Zone only made 277 runs in the first innings and North Zone responded well.
Four runs short of conceding a lead, Mohammad Ashraful struck for Central Zone with a hat-trick. He had Farhad Reza caught at midwicket, Sajidul Islam out leg-before and Saqlain Sajib caught behind in the 79th over to hasten the end of North Zone's first innings at 274.
Central Zone, too were in trouble in their second innings as left-arm spinner Sanjamul Islam took career-best figures of 8 for 73. A valuable, 74-run eighth-wicket stand between Ashraful and Nurul Hassan swung the game in Central Zone's favour, giving them a fighting chance.
North Zone were set a target of 251 to win and it was within their grasp as long as Jahurul Islam was at the crease. Coming in to bat at No. 6 in the second innings, Jahurul added 106 runs for the sixth wicket with nightwatchman Sanjamul Islam after his side were struggling at 71 for 5 on the third evening. Once the partnership was broken on the fourth day, with the target still 74 away, it was an uphill battle against the accuracy of Mosharraf Hossain and Elias Sunny.
Jahurul remained defiant and attempted to pull his side through. But, with 32 runs needed, tail-ender Saqlain Sajib was trapped leg-before by Mohammad Ashraful. Jahurul was out one ball later, caught at midwicket off Mosharraf, giving Central Zone the title.
The final was a game of many firsts. This first-class match was played under lights and featured a pink ball, both firsts for Bangladesh cricket. The game was a culmination of a four-team competition in a season where two first-class tournaments were held for the first time. The only downer in this competitive match was the lack of longevity, as the game ended with a day to spare.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent