Khulna had done all the right things after being put in; half-centuries from opener Imrul Kayash and Tushar Imran gave them a strong start, which was built on by Shakib's maiden first-class hundred (108). At stumps on day one Khulna were 361 for 7. Another 49 runs were added the next morning as the batsmen maintained a rate of almost four an over throughout the innings. If Khulna were worried about the absence of left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak and fast bowler Dolar Mahmud, away on Hong Kong Sixes duty, they were soon lifted as unheralded offspinner Murad Khan sent back Nafees Iqbal (35) and Nazimuddin (30) after Mortaza and Rasel had made their customary early strikes. A 99-run sixth-wicket stand between Faisal Hossain and Dhiman Ghosh provided respectability to the Chittagong total as Khan and Rasel took four wickets apiece to dismiss them for 248 early on the third day. Habibul Bashar gambled by not enforcing the follow-on and Khulna rode on a 69-ball 50 from Shakib, playing despite a severe bout of influenza, and a rapid 30 from Mortaza to set Chittagong a target of 367. Tamim Iqbal's 81 off 166 balls made Chittagong's intentions clear as the match headed for a draw. Bashar tried everything, including giving Khan the new ball and, towards the end of the match, getting Mortaza to bowl spin on a pitch offering turn. He managed to get the wicket of Ehsanul Haque out but Chittagong hung on to end at 252 for 7. Nazimuddin was again among the runs with an uncharacteristically sedate 56.
Rajshahi may not have the marquee names of Khulna or Dhaka but the team is a model of commitment, dedication and hard work. Led by the persevering Khaled Mashud they have set the early pace in the NCL after thumping Barisal by 8 wickets at the Rajshahi Divisional Stadium. Mashud inspired a fightback after Barisal's pace duo of Talha Jubair and Sajidul Islam had reduced Rajshahi to 46 for 4 by exploiting the juice in the wicket. Such situations bring out the best in Mashud and his workmanlike 89 from 263 balls and equally important knocks of 67 from Mushfiqur Rahman and 52 from Farhad Reza took Rajshahi past 300. Their depth then came to the fore as their supposed second-choice bowlers Reza, Suhrawadi Shuvo and Nayeem Islam shared nine wickets to dismiss Barisal for 87, the lowest score in an innings so far this season. Following on they were spared a repeat by Raisul Islam's 52 and 45 from No. 10 Jubair. It was only a matter of time before Rajshahi got the last wicket on the final morning as Barisal folded for 222, left-arm spinner Shuvo again claiming three, and were left with completing the formality of scoring nine for victory.
Dhaka missed captain Mohammad Ashraful and Mahmudullah, who were in Hong Kong, but were still too strong for a lacklustre Sylhet, thumping them by an innings and 34 runs at Bogra. Losing Javed Omar with six on the board after being sent in was the only hiccup for the champions as the other opener, Anwar Hossain (54), stand-in skipper Al Sahariar (54) and Mehrab Hossain jnr with set up the platform. Cameos from Mosharraf Hossain (35 n.o.) and Mohammad Rafique (39) ensured Dhaka's batting bonus as they declared on 351 for 9 on the second day. In good times a team with Rajin Saleh, Alok Kapali and Mushfiqur Rahim would be expected to give a spirited reply but Sylhet, who had used nine bowlers to contain Dhaka, are struggling. Mahbubul Alam, who stepped in for flu-stricken Shahadat Hossain, bowled a fascinating 11-over spell for 14 runs and sent back four of the top five batsmen. Mohammad Sharif, at the other end, took his cue and bowled a fuller length, getting the ball to swing with devastating effect. Sylhet were 26 for seven in the 17th over and without Rahim's 36 would have been bowled out for under 50. Sylhet's hopes of stretching the game beyond day three were dashed by the left-arm spin of Mehrab and Mosharraf when they followed on. Mehrab struck a double blow in the 41st over, removing Sharifullah and Sylhet captain Saleh, on his way to 5 for 43 while the towering Mosharraf continued to impress with his loop as he picked up three wickets.
Khulna's top order crumbled against Chittagong in front of a packed home crowd at the Khulna Divisional Stadium. - unprecedented in the NCL - but they recovered to post 196. Something special was called for and Mortaza (5 for 31) provided it, sending back the dangerous Aftab Ahmed (7) and Nazimuddin (5) in his opening burst before returning to dismiss Ehsanul and Shabbir Khan in the same over as Chittagong slipped from 154 for 6 to 154 for 8. Mortaza then cleaned up Rubel Hossain as Chittagong fell nine short. This was Mortaza's second match-winning effort in the space of a week following his 35 and three wickets in Khulna's victory over Dhaka in the first round.
Junaid Siddique did not play the four-dayer as he was in the Hong Kong Sixes team but flew back a day before Rajshahi's match against Barisal at the Rajshahi Divisional Stadium and belted the bowling with his opening partner Jahurul Islam. The two were separated when Jahurul fell for a 52-ball 55 after a stand of 121 in 19.2 overs but Junaid continued the momentum until his dismissal for 120 in the 42nd over. Rajshahi's total of 295 for 8 proved too intimidating a target for Barisal, whose cause was not helped when captain Shahriar Nafees was out without scoring in the first over. They eventually limped to 179 as Rajshahi's maintained their hundred percent record in both forms of the NCL.
Dhaka have unearthed an unassuming hero in Mosharraf. His three wickets at Bogra stifled Sylhet in the middle overs as they could only muster 195 on a flat deck at Bogra. Then, given another opportunity to bat at No. 3, Mosharraf repaid the faith for the second game running with 49 not out as the target was overhauled with 8.4 overs and seven wickets to spare. Mosharraf had made 72 in the loss to Khulna in round one.
Player of the week Shakib Al Hasan
Not in the best of international form coming into the NCL, Shakib had vowed before the start that he would make this tournament count and so far he has backed that confidence with action. With critics eager to bracket him as a one-day specialist the 20-year-old is letting his bat do the talking. His 108 and 50 at Khulna came when the situation demanded he anchor the innings and he instantly adapted to this role, never hurrying and minimising the risk knowing that his natural talent will always be there to ensure fluency.
National Cricket League
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
Rabeed Imam is editor of TigerCricket.com