Khulna's ascendancy to the top of the National Cricket League League has been a testament to the quality some of the biggest names in Bangladesh cricket have brought to the team. Round six, however, began for them with the realisation that this was the last time they would have the services of Mashrafe Mortaza, Shakib Al Hasan, Tushar Imran, Syed Rasel and Abdur Razzak - all of whom will join the national squad's camp ahead of the tour to New Zealand. Khulna's stars shone once again in a draw against Dhaka which enabled them to stay ahead of Rajshahi, who also could not force a result against Sylhet. A rejuvenated Chittagong meanwhile brushed aside Barisal to register their second win in consecutive games and moved to fourth and are only a point behind Dhaka.
Sylhet were celebrating soon after choosing to field against Rajshahi in Fatullah when seamer Tapash Baishya removed openers Jahurul Islam and Zunaed Siddique with just 16 on the board. Disaster struck when Baishya suffered a shoulder dislocation in his third over and was stretchered out of the match. Farhad Hossain (106) and Anisur Rahman (114) further dampened Sylhet's spirit. The two put on 205 for the third wicket and Farhad Reza, coming in at No 8, scored 55 to help Rajshahi to 417. Sylhet appeared unruffled by the massive score and were 88 for 1 at close on day two but gave it away to right-arm medium-pacer Alamgir Kabir, who took three quick wickets including that of captain Rajin Saleh to leave them on 121 for 5. Golam Mabud, who scored a century in Sylhet's last match, then repaired the damage with Ezaz Ahmed (65) in a 135-run stand but when Ezaz fell, Mabud ran out of partners and was left stranded on 82. Left-arm spinner Saqlain Sajib picked up his second five-wicket haul in the championship (5 for 55) while Kabir had 4 for 74 as Sylhet were bowled out for 293. Rajshahi built on their 124-run lead and were content on playing for a draw. They were all out for 224 after tea on the final day with Alok Kapali getting 5 for 77 and Sylhet (19 for 2 in 3.4 overs) simply completed the formality of going out on to the middle.
Barisal captain Shahriar Nafees, playing a day after being excluded from Bangladesh's ODI squad to New Zealand, scored a determined 108 against Chittagong at the Bir Shrestha Shahid Ruhul Amin Stadium. He made 108 off 141 balls but had little support from the other batsmen as Barisal were dismissed for 293 before lunch on the second day. Nafees Iqbal guided Chittagong to 270 for 4 at the end of day two with an unbeaten 118. On day three, Iqbal stretched his score to 153 and Nazimuddin, another notable batsman to miss out on a national call-up, hit a spanking 57, with 50 of those runs coming in boundaries. Chittagong declared on 352 for 9 to set the match up and their new-ball bowlers Tarek Aziz Khan and Kamrul Islam struck early blows. Barisal were then stunned by wicketkeeper Dhiman Ghosh, who traded gloves to come in and bowl some dibbly-dobblies and ended up taking the wickets of Raisul Islam and Humayun Kabir from a four-over spell. Barisal were eventually bundled out for 192 leaving Chittagong needing 137. Opener Gazi Salauddin hit 60 as Chittagong raced to the target in 28 overs for the loss of three wickets.
Rajshahi were out to maintain their all-win record and delivered another no-nonsense performance against Sylhet in Fatullah. Alok Kapali's 69 was the only bright spot in Sylhet's 209 as Rajshahi's bowlers kept the pressure on. Once the top order had been taken care of, Khaled Mashud gave the ball to Farhad Hossain, an occasional offspinner, and he promptly mopped the tail, taking the last five wickets to finish with figures of 5 for 16. Rabiul Karim and Naeem Islam made fifties as Rajshahi won by 6 wickets in the 47th over.
Khulna woke up to the tough life without the stalwarts as Dhaka quicks Mahbubul Alam (4 for 34) and Niaz Morshed (2 for 39) sent the home team's first six packing with 51 on the scorecard at the Bir Shrestha Shahid Motiur Rahman Stadium. Captain Abdur Razzak (39), the only national player turning up for the one-dayer, stretched the innings to 125 but it was no where near competitive as Dhaka chased the target with ease, Shamsur Rahman scoring a patient 53 not out in their eight-wicket win.
Barisal were asked to bat by Chittagong at the Bir Shrestha Shahid Ruhul Amin Stadium and captain Nafees was a first-over casualty. Hannan Sarkar soon followed him to the pavilion in the seventh over but the next four batsmen, Imran Ahmed (50) Roqibul Hassan (56), Kamrul Islam (78 not out) and Arafat Salauddin (68) carried the score to 289 for 5. Languishing on 50 for 4, Chittagong fought back with Nazimuddin (84) and captain Ehsanul Haque (57) who were involved in a 128-run partnership in 20.2 overs. Roqibul, who was given the Man-of-the-Match award, ran Ehsanul out while Nazimuddin was lbw to Toriqul Islam soon after and Chittagong fell 15 runs short.
Player of the Week - Farhad Hossain
Critics of Rajshahi argue that they take the joy out of watching cricket with their overly pragmatic approach but this team gets results despite not having one name to evoke excitement and each cricketer responds when asked to deliver. Hossain is the perfect example. His 106 in the four-day match changed the course of the game and then in the one-dayer he was asked roll his hand over and finished with a five-for and chipped in with 41while batting.
National Cricket League
National Cricket League one-day
Rabeed Imam is editor of TigerCricket.com