As far as early indications go Rajshahi
have shown they have lost nothing of the team spirit and resilience from last season and a strong batting display helped them outplay Chittagong
by an innings and 22 runs in Rajshahi
and move to top of the table. Dhaka
were indebted to left-arm spinner Elias Sunny, whose one-man show in Sylhet
literally turned the match for them against Sylhet
. Barisal continued to be resolute and went joint second with Dhaka following a hard-fought draw against defending champions Khulna
Khaled Mashud chose to bat at Rajshahi's fortress, the Divisional Stadium. Alongside solid innings from Farhad Hossain (88) and Anisur Rahman (142), Mashud's 72 allowed him to declare at 438 for 9 after tea on the second day. In the 24 overs remaining before the close Chittagong were rocked by left-arm spinner Shuvo, who took two quick wickets before Chittagong closed on 54 for 3. Nafees Iqbal, the captain, was caught by Shuvo off pace bowler Alamgir Kabir for 43 in the fourth over and Chittagong were all out for 120 before lunch.
Shuvo ran through the late order and finished with 5 for 34. Following on, Chittagong opener Gazi Salahuddin made an aggressive 78 with 11 fours but wickets fell at regular intervals. At stumps, Chittagong were 207 for 7 still needing 111 to make the hosts bat again. It was all over inside the first session the next day, with Shuvo taking his tenth wicket. Farhad Hossain chipped in with four wickets to dismiss Chittagong for 296. The inevitable was delayed by Tariq Ahmed (54) and Mukhtar Ali (40 not out).
A depleted Dhaka batted first and four of the top seven batsmen hit fifties - Golam Rahman (71), Mithun Ali (69), Kamrul Islam (62) and Ezaz Ahmed (88) blasting nine sixes and 26 fours in a total of 343. At one stage Sylhet were 309 for 5 on day two, and it could have been a lot worse for Dhaka without a hat-trick from Sunny. Off the third ball of the 109th over Kamrul attempted a slog-sweep and Javed Omar dived to his right at square leg to take a fine catch; next ball Taposh Ghosh fell leg-before; and then Nazmul Hossain was trapped lbw to complete the hat-trick, the second in NCL history following Dolar Mahmud's last season. Sunny went on to take 7 for 79.
Shamsur Rahman played a typically fluent 78 and Dhaka's innings showed promise with Marshall Ayub and Nazmul Hossain completing half-centuries. But the last four batsmen did not score. Sylhet's opening bowlers, Nazmul and Rashedur Rahman, shared eight wickets and Dhaka folded for 254 on the third day to concede a first-innings lead of 89. Sylhet's ploy to attack Sunny from the onset in their second innings did not work on a slow and low third-day pitch. They paid the price over a session and a half and were bundled out for 113 with Sunny claiming 6 for 28 and a match haul of 13 for 107. With the pitch unsuitable for playing strokes, openers Omar (43) and Anwar Hossain gave Dhaka a cautious but solid start by putting on 73 in 39.2 overs. Mahmudullah then made an unbeaten 56 off 100 balls to take Dhaka home by six wickets.
At Fatullah, Robiul Islam's 5 for 86 restricted Barisal to 288, which would have been a lot poorer if not for an eight-wicket stand of 137 between Nasir Hossain (67) and Sajidul Islam (52). Khulna's innings capitulated under the sustained pressure from Talha Jubair (4 for 43) and Sajidul (3 for 51) and they were bowled out for 210. Barisal could not capitalise on the 78-run lead, however, and were dismissed for 81. With 260 to get ,Tushar's 56 gave Khulna hope Sajidul bowled him to leave them 167 for 6. Khulnga batted out 17 overs to finished on 207 for 8. Tariqul Islam took 5 for 83 for Barisal.
Living up to the standards set by Rafique is an unenviable task, especially if you are a left-arm spinner. In Bangladesh it is easy to get lost in the slow-lefties crowd with so many involved in domestic cricket. If Rafique and Musharraf were still available Sunny might never have got a chance to play for Dhaka but when the opportunity presented itself he was there to grab it with both hands. Bowling in the classical mould he mixed his deliveries, generally at a slow speed. Importantly he gave the ball flight and extracted spin. The relentless guile was too much for the Sylhet batsmen and Sunny returned 13 wickets in the match, which included only the second hat-trick in National Cricket League's history.