Mohammad Ashraful's 85 helped Dhaka play out a draw ©
The National Cricket League (NCL), Bangladesh's premier domestic competition, got underway with the defending champions in the four-day event, Dhaka, holding onto a draw against Khulna at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in Mirpur .

Batting first, Khulna declared at 303 for 9, relying on Shakib Al Hasan's 78 and Abdur Razzak's aggressive 78 coming in at number 9, to lift them from 64 for 4 and 170 for 7. Dhaka were in trouble on day one when they closed at 17 for 2 and things didn't get any better the next day as Mashrafe Mortaza took four wickets on an unresponsive pitch to bowl Dhaka out for 174. Captain Habibul Bashar's painstaking 67 stretched Khulna's lead to 313 and the onus was on Mohammad Ashraful, who survived a torrid examination under fading light against Mortaza on day three to rally his side with 242 still required. Ashraful set the right tone on the final day and for the first time in the game, Khulna were feeling the pressure. But things evened up when Mortaza dismissed the Bangladesh skipper for 85 with the scoreboard reading 197 for 4. The pace trio of Mortaza, Syed Rasel and Dolar Mahmud were relentless and Dhaka lost two more wickets without adding much to the total. It was left to Mehrab Hossain (Jr.) and Mosharaf Hossain, the number 10 batsman, to hold fort as they passed a nervy last 14.5 overs to force a draw.

But Khulna won the one-day match that followed. A watchful 71 from opener Imrul Kayash, 56 from Shakib Al Hasan and some feisty blows from Mortaza carried Khulna to 240 for eight. On a wicket where the bounce was on the lower side, Dhaka's reply got off to a poor start. Javed Omar (3), Al Shahariar (1) and Ashraful (1) falling with 13 on the board, while Rasel and Mortaza were the pick of the bowlers once again. Rasel's swing and nagging line got him a five-for while Mortaza picked up three as Khulna won by 39 runs.

Barisal defeated the more-fancied Chittagong by five wickets at Bogra's Shahid Chandu Stadium. They were led by a fine all-round performance from Sajidul Islam, who took seven wickets in the match and scored a vital unbeaten half-century in their first innings. Batting first, Chittagong were dismissed for 176, Islam finishing with figures of 4 for 42 and his new ball partner Talha Jubair taking three wickets. The only resistance came from Aftab Ahmed (61) and Nazimuddin (47). Islam returned to haunt Chittagong on day two, scoring an unbeaten 64 to take Barisal from 174 for 8 to 274 after Tareq Aziz's five-for triggered a middle-order collapse. Shahriar Nafees top-scored for Barisal with 79. Chittagong fared much better in the second innings with half centuries from opener Tamim Iqbal and Nazimuddin and useful knocks from the top-order giving Barisal a target of 220. With almost the whole day to get those runs, Barisal's approach was composed and despite losing captain Nafees for 1; Hannan Sarkar (49), Raqibul Hasan (55) and Raisul Islam (54 not out) ensured the chase was a cruise.

Barisal were brought back to earth in the one-dayer when their 224 was overhauled with 14 overs to spare thanks to a spanking 92-ball 133 by Tamim. However, the Chittagong win was somewhat overshadowed by the confrontation in the middle between Tamim and Jubair which apparently involved physical contact. Both players were later disciplined by the match referee and were suspended for two four-day matches or four one-dayers of the ongoing NCL.

Rajshahi hosted Sylhet at the Divisional Stadium and underlined their strength by winning both the four-day and one-day matches. Play started an hour late because of rain and Khaled Mashud's decision to bowl first was justified as Sylhet were reduced to 95 for six by pacers Delwar Hossain, Farhad Reza and Mohammad Shahjada. Sylhet crawled to 141 all out by close. Despite opener Jahirul Islam's 67, Rajshahi were in a spot of bother at 190 for eight on day two. Mashud's gritty 82 that took 241 balls and his 80-run partnership for the ninth wicket with Hossain, tilted the balance as Rajshahi reached 301. Sylhet, 160 behind, needed their top-order to fire if they wanted to stay in the game but only captain Rajin Saleh (68) stuck around for any length of time as left-arm spinner Suhrawadi Shuvo got into the act with four wickets. Rajshahi's reached the 99 required with eight wickets to spare.

Mashrafe Mortaza was the stand-out performer in the first round ©
The one-day match was a closer contest, with Rajshahi edging home by two wickets chasing 169. The small target became a stiff one for Rajshahi when they slumped to 98 for 8, but Mushfiqur Rahman had other ideas and maintained his cool in a match-winning unbeaten 50. He was involved in an unbroken 71-run stand for the ninth wicket with Mohammad Shahjada, who smacked a six and three fours as Rajshahi scampered home in the last ball of the 48th over. Earlier, Slyhet crawled to 168 with Sharifullah top-scoring with a 90-ball 56.

Player of the week Mashrafe Mortaza

After a disappointing tour of Sri Lanka and the World Twenty20, Mortaza regained his form in the opening round tussle against Dhaka at Mirpur, where he never held himself back on an unresponsive pitch. His four for 36 in the first innings was followed by an even more terrific effort in the second innings, where he bowled 24 overs on the final day. The shape away from the bat with the new ball and the deadly reverse-swing at great speed with the old one had the Dhaka batsmen gasping. In the one-dayer, Mortaza continued to impress as he hit 35 off 25 balls and then destroyed Dhaka with figures of 3 for 35.

Points table

National Cricket League

Team Mat WonLost Tied Draw Aban Pts
Rajshahi Div 1 1 0 0 00 15
Barisal Division 1 10 0 0 0 14
Khulna Division 1 0 0 0 10 11
Dhaka Division 1 00 0 1 0 5
Chittagong D 1 0 1 0 00 4
Sylhet Division 1 01 0 0 0 4

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 Net RR
Chittagong D 1 1 0 00 2 +1.770
Khulna Division 1 1 0 0 02 +0.780
Rajshahi Div 1 1 0 0 0 2+0.161
Sylhet Division 10 1 0 0 0 -0.161
Dhaka Division 1 01 0 0 0 -0.780
Barisal Division 1 0 10 0 0 -1.770

Rabeed Imam is editor of