For his first 34 deliveries on Wednesday night, Sabbir Rahman batted very calmly. He picked up 13 singles, two twos and a boundary. It wasn't the Sabbir Rahman of three weeks ago, when he hit Barisal Bulls' bowlers for nine sixes and nine fours in his maiden T20 century. This time, he was trying to bat through a 126-run chase to put Rajshahi Kings in the final of BPL 2016-17.
His 35th ball, delivered by Mosharraf Hossain, was banished over the straight boundary. Then he got back to picking up singles and twos. In the final over with four to win, he charged at Mahmudullah's first ball, adjusted himself quickly when the delivery looked too short to slam down the ground, and simply drove the ball for a single to finish unbeaten on 43.
In his next innings after that superb 122, Sabbir had slammed 46 off 30 balls against Chittagong Vikings, but since then his scoring tapered off. While his 105 in the nine innings between the 46 and 43 not out cannot be described as a dip in form - batsmen have been known to quieten down after a big one in these domestic T20 tournaments, given the constant grind and subsequent fatigue that are a feature of them - Sabbir also had to deal with issues outside of his cricket. There was the incident with Mohammad Shahzad which cost him 15% of his match fee, followed quickly by an even heftier fine for a disciplinary breach. The fine of roughly $15,000 was almost five times that which was imposed on Shakib Al Hasan in 2014, considered at the time the highest amount paid by a Bangladesh player for an indiscretion.
Those two incidents coinciding with a slow-down in run-scoring must have rocked Sabbir. As his captain Darren Sammy said, he had to "put his head down" in the second qualifier. And he did, delivering when Rajshahi needed him most.
Sammy praised Sabbir for remaining calm in the chase. He also said that James Franklin's presence in the middle after the fall of the third wicket with the chase only half done was crucial. "I think it was not required to win it in 15 [overs]," Sammy said. "We just needed a win. Sabbir batted responsibly today. We didn't need eight or nine runs an over. He showed that if he has to put his head down, curb his aggression, he could. We needed for someone to bat through. The experience of James Franklin did the job for us too. At no time did I think that we had any doubts of chasing the total."
Now, Sammy wants Sabbir to bat responsibly once again in their next game: the final against Dhaka Dynamites on December 9. "I don't want to change his batting or his style of cricket," Sammy said. "Today, I just told him: 'Well played, very responsible, let's do it again.'"