Khulna Tigers 158-3 (Shanto 78*, Irfan 2-13) beat Rajshahi Royals 131(Malik 80, Amir 6-17) by 27 runs
Khulna Tigers became the first side to reach the BPL final after they defeated Rajshahi Royals by 27 runs in the first qualifier. Mohammad Amir's maiden six-wicket haul made it a cruise following Najmul Hossain Shanto's unbeaten 78 had taken Khulna to 158 for 3 in 20 overs.
At the halfway mark, Rajshahi would have felt that they restricted Khulna to a small total despite Shanto's long stay in the middle. But Amir buried all hopes with his opening spell of three overs as he became the first bowler in BPL history to take a six-wicket haul.
Amir rips out Rajshahi's top-order
Amir began by removing the in-form Liton Das in the first over of the chase. He then had Afif Hossain, the other half of Rajshahi's successful opening pair, in his next over, before adding Alok Kapali, caught at slip, later in the same over.
After Ravi Bopara was brilliantly caught by Rilee Rossouw at long-off in the fifth over, Amir, kept on for a third over with Andre Russell fresh at the crease and removed the West Indian giant with a superb delivery, for a duck.
Russell could do very little against the peach, apart from giving Rossouw his second catch in the space of six balls, this time at mid-on. With their captain gone in the sixth over, Rajshahi were nowhere in the contest at 23 for 5.
Malik keeps the crowd
To further Rajshahi's slide, Shahidul Islam took the wicket of Farhad Reza in the eighth over before Shoaib Malik, the only remaining batsman from the top order, held firm with Taijul Islam in a 74-run stand for the seventh wicket. With his third fifty in this BPL season, Malik also crossed the 400-run mark during his 49-ball 80 that included ten fours and four sixes.
He struck 15 and 21 off Aminul Islam and Shafiul Islam towards the end to keep some of the crowd glued to their seats, but once Amir returned for his last over, it was over quickly.
Amir returns to set things straight
With 53 needed off 18 balls, Malik did look like pulling off the impossible. But Amir first removed Taijul to end their partnership, before having Malik caught by substitute Rahmanullah Gurbaz, off the fifth ball of the over to pick up his sixth wicket.
After Irfanuddin, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul and Faheem Ashraf, Amir became the fifth Pakistani to take a six or more wickets in a T20 match.
Shanto continues where he left off
But it wasn't all plain sailing for Khulna in this game. Mohammad Irfan had reduced them to 15 for 2 in the third over before Shanto and Shamsur Rahman added 78 runs for the third wicket.
Shanto added a further 42 runs for the fourth wicket before Mushfiqur Rahim had to walk off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. But Shanto batted till the end, making 78 off 57 balls with four sixes and seven fours.
Having made 115 in Khulna's last league game against Dhaka Platoon, Shanto looked in excellent touch as he not only got Khulna out of trouble with big hits, but also applied pressure on Rajshahi's bowling through rotation of strike. He however survived a dismissal when he was batting on 9 when Malik overstepped in the sixth over.