Coronavirus had taken away seven long months of cricket. Everything came to a standstill. Cricketers training from home were gasping for air and get back to competitive cricket again. Their long wait was finally over with the BCB President's Cup.
50 local players divided into three teams - Najmul XI, Mahmudullah XI, and Tamim XI - played against each other in round-robin format starting from October 11. After 6 matches played in ten days, Najmul XI and Mahmudullah XI finally reached the all-important final which will take place today.
The final was originally scheduled on last Friday, October 23. But the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) had to reschedule it to today - Sunday, October 25 - due to inclement weather forecast. It did rain throughout the last three days, and weather conditions for the final are not all sunny at all.
Can Najmul XI make it three in three?
Najmul XI has been the dominant team side throughout the tournament and they will be eager to have the last laugh. They already beat Mahmudullah XI, comprehensively, twice in their group stage games. They will be eyeing for three in three against their opposition in the final and be eventually the champions of the BCB President's Cup.
In the tournament opener, Najmul XI beat Mahmudullah XI by 4 wickets after pacers ruled the Mahmudullah XI batsmen. Later in their next battle, Najmul XI literally hammered them with a win of 131 runs.
All eyes will be on Najmul XI's batting unit for they have been in terrific form throughout the tournament. Clouds of concern flying over Mushfiqur Rahim's availability for the final, but the team management confirmed Mushfiq will be fit enough to play. He has scored the most runs so far in the tournament, scoring 207 runs from 4 innings with two fifties and the only hundred of the tournament has seen so far.
Afif Hossain Dhrubo is another name that will concern Mahmudullah XI. The boy wonder has already bagged 157 runs from his 4 innings with a magnificent fifty and several solid knocks whenever he came on to bat.
Irfan Sukkur has announced his arrival through some vital batting performances in the death overs and he will again be doing the same thing if he is needed. He has shown tremendous qualities as a finisher and will have a lot of eyes on him in the coming days.
But the most promising side of Najmul XI has to be their fielding department. They have all the energetic young guns up and going and throwing themselves at anything, will be a huge test for Mahmudullah XI here.
Mahmudullah XI hungry for revenge served cold
Mahmudullah XI were battered in both of their matches against Najmul XI in the group stage. They will be hungry for revenge and have the last laugh against their bitter opponents. And what could be better than revenge in the all-important final when it matters the most?
Mahmudullah XI have suffered with their batting unit all through the President's Cup. Their captain, Mahmudullah Riyad is their highest run-getter with 139 runs from 4 innings. Imrul Kayes is right next to him scoring 108 runs in his 4 innings. No other batsmen reached the hundred run mark.
But Mahmudullah XI have a fine bowling attack. Rubel Hossain has been brilliant throughout the tournament picking up 10 wickets from his 4 matches at an average of 13.40. The likes of Ebadot Hossain and Sumon Khan have also impressed.
Top performers so far
Fast bowlers dominated most of the matches in the BCB President's Cup so far. All the five top bowlers being pacers is just the concrete example for anyone wondering. The battle for the top spot has been intense, but Tamim XI bowing from the group stage means it's all Najmul XI pacers now challenging for that.
All-rounder Saifuddin tops the table with 12 wickets from 4 matches with his best figure being 26/5 against Tamim XI in the last group stage match. He bagged the only fifer of the tournament so far and surpassed Rubel Hossain on his way who ended his tournament with 10 wickets from 4 matches.
Cutter Master Mustafizur Rahman sits next with 8 wickets from his 4 matches. He did show some glimpses of old Mustafiz that we all know about. Taskin Ahmed, Al Amin Hossain, Ebadot Hossain are next with 7 wickets in each of their bags.
In the batting department, Mushfiqur Rahim is sitting on top with 207 runs from his 4 innings. He scored the only hundred of the tournament so far along with two fifties. His partner in two huge partnerships, Afif Hossain Dhrubo is next with 157 runs. Irfan Sukkur and Mahmudullah Riyad are level at total runs scored while Nurul Hasan Sohan is fifth in the top batsmen's table.
Captains have their eyes set on the championship. They both spoke to the media about how this tournament has benefitted the players and how they are eager to win it.
"Though it wasn't an official tournament, we all played seriously. There was no shortage of competition. Everyone had the drive to perform better than others. In this sense, it has been a great competition," said Mahmudullah Riyad, the captain of Mahmudullah XI.
""It was a great experience playing such a tournament. There are a lot of positives. We've returned to cricket after such a long time and shared the dressing room with teammates. Overall, the tournament has been really enjoyable," said Najmul Hasan Shanto.
Weather conditions are likely to play a huge part in the final. The weather forecast still looks gloomy and it will definitely play a part in the proceedings.
The match will begin at 1:30 pm BST.
The final will be live-streamed on the Bangladesh Cricket Board's (BCB) official Facebook page and youtube channel. The match will also be telecast on BTV.