When Khulna Tigers set a target of 159 for Rajshahi Royals in the first qualifier of the Bangabandhu Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) T20 2019-20, the northerners must have been happy considering their long batting lineup.
But as the wickets crumbled for them and they were down to 23-5 within the powerplay, Shoaib Malik standing at the other end must be rueing about himself overstepping in the sixth over.
In the second delivery of Khulna's sixth over, Malik managed to get through Nazmul Hossain Shanto's defences as the ball hit the leg-stump. But the umpires went upstairs to check the front foot and the replays showed that Malik had overstepped. Shanto, who had hit an incredible hundred in the last match, used this opportunity to score 78 and take Khulna to 158-3 and Rajshahi could never cope up. Malik tried, Malik tried for a long time but after that landslide of wickets in the beginning, nothing could have been done to take Rajshahi to the final with a win as Rajshahi Royals fell short by 27 runs.
Rajshahi Royals will now face Chattogram Challengers in the second qualifier on January 15 in their quest for reaching the final.
Winning the toss, Rajshahi skipper Andre Russell won the toss and decided to field first and the decision looked right when they managed to knock off Mehidy Hasan and Rilee Rossouw within the third over. But then happened Malik's overstepping and Shanto, along with some help from Shamsur Rahman, Mushfiqur Rahim and Najibullah Zadran, ensured that Khulna had reached a fighting total in 158. Khulna were given a scare during their batting as Mushfiq had to leave the field with cramp but the fans were relieved when their skipper returned to keep during their fielding stint.
And as Rajshahi came into bat, they were torn apart by Mohammad Amir at the very beginning. Amir first went through Liton Das' defences to rattle his stumps before managing to get an edge off Afif Hossain to send the left-handed batsman back. And Rajshahi's over-dependancy on their openers were once again exposed as they crumbled afterwards.
Within the sixth over, they had lost five wickets as Amir picked up another two. Alok Kapali was gone in the same over as Afif before Amir, in his next over, took out the big fish in Andre Russell for a duck as the batsman tried to hoick Amir, but only managing to top-edge the delivery and got caught by Rossouw. Frylinck though took out Ravi Bopara before Amir took out Russell as Rossouw took a brilliant catch to send the Englishman back. Shohidul Islam struck next in the eight over as he managed to send back Farhad Reza for 3.
Malik, trying to pay back for his mistake, built a stand with Taijul Islam of 74 runs. Malik was steady at the beginning but continued to feast on the bowlers as the overs went on and the asking rate kept rising. Their stand was broken when Amir back for his last over and sent Taijul back for 12 to get his five-wicket haul.
And Rajshahi's final hopes were diminished when Amir struck in the same over to send Shoaib back for 80 off 50 deliveries as he picked up the best bowling figures in BPL history of 6-17. The previous bowling record of BPL was Mohammad Sami's 5-6, which he picked up in the 2012 BPL for the then Duronto Rajshahi against Dhaka Gladiators.
Rajshahi were all out in the last over as Mehidy picked up a couple of wickets to ensure that Khulna were into the finals with a 27-run win.
This marked a special occasion for the Khulna skipper Mushfiq as this ensured his first-ever final bout.
Khulna Tigers: 158-3 (Shanto 78*, Shamsur 32, Mushfiqur 21, Irfan 2-13, Bopara 1-24)
Rajshahi Royals: 131 (Malik 80, Taijul 12, Afif 11, Amir 6-17, Mehidy 2-6)