Rajshahi Royals are the new BPL champions. It was a tournament in which as many as six batsmen topped the 400-run mark, two of them getting close to 500, three centuries were hit, four bowlers finished top of the wicket-takers' list with 20 strikes apiece and we had four five-wicket hauls, not to mention some outstanding efforts in the field. Here, we pick some of the best of those performances.
Khulna Tigers needed a big performance from their premier fast bowler in the first qualifier, and Mohammad Amir responded brilliantly. He took 4 for 11 in his first three overs, ripping out the Rajshahi Royals' top order - he swung one back in to Liton Das' off-stump, had Afif Hossain and Alok Kapali caught behind, and Andre Russell caught at midwicket after being cramped for room - to leave them at 23 for 5. Amir returned to send back Taijul Islam and Shoaib Malik, who had scored 80 from 50, to finish with the best figures in BPL history. Amir also ensured Khulna were the first team to reach the final.
Wahab Riaz had Liton and Kapali caught behind, before Shoaib too tickled one down the leg side to the wicketkeeper. All in one over, a maiden. He later wrapped up the innings with the wickets of Nahidul Islam and Kamrul Islam. Interestingly, substitute wicketkeeper Jaker Ali took four of those catches, eventually finishing with six catches in the game. Dhaka Platoon won the game by a whopping 74 runs.
Among Mehedi Hasan Rana's two four-wicket hauls, this was the better show, because often Bangladeshi pace bowlers can't really follow up one good spell with another. Rana duped Soumya Sarkar with his length before clean bowling Bhanuka Rajapaksa. He also trapped Sabbir Rahman lbw to make it three wickets in his first spell. Then when Dawid Malan had got to 80 and was looking threatening, Rana came back to have him caught at deep midwicket. That gave Chattogram Challengers a 16-run win in a high-scoring game.
Having scored 115 runs in eight innings, the pressure was on Najmul Hossain Shanto to deliver for Khulna. As they chased 206 runs against Dhaka, that pressure became even more. But Shanto finally responded, with a superb maiden T20 century, and doubling his tally in the season's BPL. Not known as a big-hitter, Shanto mixed slogs with attractive shots around the wicket, including cover drives and late cuts. By the time he reached his century, Khulna were well and truly in a winning position, and eventually got to the top of the points table with an eight-wicket win.
With a place in the final at stake and with the required rate getting away from them, Rajshahi needed a true Andre Russell special to keep them in the competition. They needed 85 off the last 6.4 overs when Shoaib Malik fell, but Russell slowly took it down, piece by piece. Against the impressive Rana in the 18th over, Russell took the game away from Chattogram altogether. He smashed him for two sixes and a four, and then Rubel Hossain for more in the following over, before smashing the winning six in the last over.
If this innings had come in a playoff game, Dasun Shanaka would have become an instant hero in Bangladesh. Still, his nine sixes and three fours in an extraordinary unbeaten 31-ball 75 took Cumilla Warriors from a difficult 89 for 6 to an above average 173 for 7.
Shanaka got stuck into Lewis Gregory, Mustafizur Rahman and Junaid Khan in the last three overs. One of his sixes, off Mustafizur, landed on the roof the grandstand, probably the only time someone has been able to clear that part of the Shere Bangla National Stadium. Cumilla then bowled out Rangpur for just 68, to win by 105 runs.
Mohammad Shahzad's swing of the bat often goes into unpredictable directions, so when he tried to slam Kesrick Williams over mid-off, the splice took it over point. Ryan Burl ran back, positioned himself nicely and then dove to complete the catch. He even managed to keep his sunglass on.
It was a good BPL campaign for Imrul Kayes with the bat, and he topped it off with a brilliant running catch at the long-on boundary in the second qualifier, against Rajshahi. He intercepted a strong drive from Mohammad Nawaz towards the end of the chase, running to his right, and diving full length near the boundary rope. Chattogram went on to lose the game but Imrul's catch was among the best in the tournament.
In search of quick runs as he looked to build on Sylhet Thunder's good start, Mosaddek Hossain threw his bat around, attacking Robiul Haque. But Rilee Rossouw jumped high at cover, and caught the ball one-handed over his head. It was just the start of a superb BPL season for Rossouw, who would go on to take another superb catch in the playoffs, apart from finishing as the tournament's top run-getter.