Even with the most impressive assortment of star names, Khulna's inability to deliver the killer punch from winning positions has allowed the more workmanlike Rajshahi to go five points clear of Habibul Bashar's side after the National Cricket Leauge's (NCL) round three. However, Khulna beat Rajshahi in a last-over thriller at home to leapfrog over them in the standings. Barisal and Dhaka also made huge strides and along with Rajshahi occupy second spot.

Dolar Mahmud starred with a hat-trick and the winning four in Khulna's thrilling victory © TigerCricket.com
Khulna and Rajshahi were both unbeaten going into the match at Bir Shrestha Motiur Rahman Stadium. The absence of Mashrafe Mortaza and Abdur Razzak (both sitting out on the instruction of Bangladesh's fitness advisor) from the Khulna line-up might have prompted Rajshahi captain Khaled Mashud's decision to bat first. Dolar Mahmud was not even supposed to play this game, but was drafted in at the last moment when the Bangladesh Under-19 side's tour to Pakistan was postponed. But armed with the new ball, Mahmud annihilated Rajshahi picking up Junaid Siddique, Naeem Islam and Mushfiqur Rahman in successive balls to record the first hat-trick in the nine-year history of the NCL. His 7 for 39 reduced Rajshahi on the first day to 174 for 9. Khulna matched Rajshahi's dreariness and couldn't force themselves into a position of strength. They collapsed from 96 for 2 to 190 for 7 at stumps on the second day against the seamers. In the context, opening batsman Nazmus Sadat's 95 was outstanding. Bashar declared on 204 for 9 to deny Rajshahi the bowling bonus and then saw his bowlers restrict the opponents to 241. Mashud made 62, his third fifty in the league. Khulna's target was 241 in 69 overs and that looked distant when Sadat (52) was second man out in the 44th over with just 108 on the board. Tushar Imran, however, got things moving again with 34, before cameos from Ziaur Rahman (26) and Mustafizur Rahman (19) edged Khulna closer. But three wickets in nine balls left the hosts needing seven off the last over with eight down. Mahmud was hero with the bat now, hitting a boundary off the penultimate delivery to take them to their first win.
Visitors Chittagong batted first at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium and their disappointing first innings of 200 lacked purpose from the off. Javed Omar, the seasoned Dhaka opener, started slowly before opening up after lunch on day two for a 241-ball 101. He was involved in two crucial partnerships along the way, 104 with Anwar Hossain (62) and 94 for the second wicket with Al Sahariar. Dhaka looked on course to bat Chittagong out of the match as they closed on 300 for 5. Chittagong woke up on the third day, wrapping up the innings at 376, and showed more grit batting again. Tamim Iqbal, also taking advantage of the U-19 tour postponement, followed his first innings 38 with 70 but going in to the last day on 165 for 4, Chittagong needed a minor miracle to avoid defeat. Ultimately, they almost won the match. Captain Ehsanul Haque's 56 carried the score to 278, which left Dhaka needing 103. What should have been a formality turned in to a battle of nerves as left-arm seamer Kamrul Islam took 4 for 19 including captain Mohammad Ashraful (2). Dhaka were in dire straits at 85 for 7, but refused the umpires' offer to stop play with the light fading, before Mehrab Hossain (jnr) guided the team home.

Tamim Iqbal drives on his way to 70 against Dhaka © TigerCricket.com
Barisal expected on-song opening bowlers Sajidul Islam and Talha Jubair to make an impact on a lively Fatullah pitch and they did. The two combined to remove the top three Sylhet batsmen with the score on 60. In strode Alok Kapali to join captain Rajin Saleh (88) and the two shared a 223-run stand. Any Kapali innings, even brief ones, treat the eyes and this one was special. By close he was unbeaten on 157 and Sylhet were 316 for 4. It was a different story the next day, however. Sylhet quickly slipped to 335 for 9, Arafat Salahuddin taking 4 for 94 before the declaration. Barisal were then introduced to the big, burly Bangladesh U-19 fast bowler Shubashis Roy. With an action similar to Lance Klusener, Roy made his first impression by breaking Hannan Sarkar's leg stump in two and ended with 4 for 64. Raisul Islam (83) and Abul Bashar (56) made half-centuries. Sajidul and Talha quickly got into the act and reduced Sylhet to 45 for 5 by stumps on the third day. They shared seven second-innings wickets as Sylhet were eventually bowled out for 95 setting a target of 176. In the first over of the Barisal innings, Roy sent back Imran Ahmed and Shahin Hossain without a run on the board and soon Barisal were 17 for 5. It was left to Raqibul Hasan (57) and Man of the Match Salahuddin (76) to repair the damage. They put on 126 before three wickets fell, though Barisal eventually got home with two wickets to spare.

Golam Mabud's century gave Sylhet their first win in the one-day Lea © TigerCricket.com
With a 100% record from three matches it was the moment of truth for Khulna and Rajshahi. Khulna batted first and had moved to 97 for 2 by the 19th over before wickets started falling at regular intervals. The end effort was a poor 187 with Shakib Al Hasan making 52, his third half-century in four matches. Syed Rasel got the Khulna crowd all excited by getting Junaid Siddique, Jahurul Islam and Farhad Reza in his opening burst but Naeem Islam's 66 and Farhad Hossain's 43 ensured a 5-wicket victory.
Mosharraf Hossain's elevation to No. 3 in the batting order is working well for Dhaka. His 69 and a cheeky 45 from Ashraful were instrumental in getting Dhaka to 253 for 9. Chittagong's batsmen, when in the mood, can make targets like these look simple, even without Tamim who is serving a four-game ban. Tamim's brother, Nafees made 50 while his opening partner Mahbubul Karim (48), Nazimuddin (38), Aftab Ahmed (34) and Faisal Hossain (52) were on top of the Dhaka bowling throughout. Some injudicious shots towards the end resulted in a slight wobble and a last-over finish, but Chittagong won by three wickets.
In a match where both teams were searching for their first victory, middle-order batsman Golam Mabud's 116-ball 100 was the only significant innings for Sylhet who made 225 for 9 after being sent in. That proved good enough as Raquibul (87 not out) fought a lone battle for Barisal and ran out of partners in a 14-run loss.
Player of the week Alok Kapali
It was an emotional Alok Kapali who took the field against Barisal. He had just left his ailing father, who had suffered a stroke, at the hospital and was determined to give him something to cheer. His 168 had all the class of the teenage prodigy he once was and something better in the form of concentration and a determination to play as straight as possible. When Sylhet batsmen were falling like nine pins in the second innings, Kapali made 32 out of 95.

Points table

National Cricket League
Team Mat Won Lost Draw Tied Aban Bat. Bonus Bwl. Bonus Pts
Khulna Division 4 1 0 3 0 0 10 16 46
Rajshahi Division 4 2 1 1 0 0 7 15 42
Barisal Division 4 2 1 1 0 0 7 15 42
Dhaka Division 4 2 0 2 0 0 8 14 42
Chittagong Division 4 0 2 2 0 0 2 16 22
Sylhet Division 4 0 3 1 0 0 4 15 21
Note: Points include bonus points for batting and bowling and points for the first-innings lead in the drawn game
National Cricket League one-day
Team Mat Won LostTied N/R Pts
Rajshahi Division4 4 0 0 0 8
Khulna Division 4 3 1 0 0 6
Chittagong Division 4 2 2 0 0 4
Dhaka Division 4 2 2 0 0 4
Sylhet Division 4 1 3 0 0 2
Barisal Division 4 0 4 0 0 0

Rabeed Imam is editor of TigerCricket.com