Many would write Khulna Tigers off when they needed 56 off the last 24 deliveries, chasing a mammoth 190 runs set by Chattogram Challengers in the Eliminator thanks to another Caribbean Chadwick Walton's match-winning 89. Andre Fletcher was going strong but his partner Yasir Ali was struggling at 13 off 12 balls. 14 runs per over was never going be easy. But Khulna fought hard, did everything they had to do, but eventually fall short by 7 runs to get eliminated after a nerve-racking thriller at Mirpur.
Fletcher was devastated in the end, and rightly so. They needed 16 runs from the last over and the way they were batting it was very much possible. But Mehidy Hasan Miraz had other ideas. He gave away three singles in the first three deliveries to bring the pressure right back to the Khulna batters. A fumble cost a boundary in the fourth delivery but a top-notch yorker in the penultimate delivery really sealed the deal for the Challengers.
Chasing a mammoth 190 runs in the nervy Eliminator was always going to be difficult. But Khulna started strong in their chase. Despite losing two early wickets within the first five overs they maintained a healthy run-rate thanks to their 'Spiceman' Fletcher. Mahedi Hasan and Soumya Sarkar failed to live up to the expectation as they were dismissed for 2 and 1 respectively.
Fletcher then built a 64-run partnership with the skipper Mushfiqur Rahim. Mushfiq score a quickfire 43 off 29 deliveries before getting caught behind off Miraz's bowling. He hit one boundary and four maximums on his way.
Yasir Ali then came to the crease to accompany Fletcher who was going strong right from the word go. Yasir was struggling at 13 off 12 before the 18th over by Mrittunjoy Chowdhury unleashed the beast in him. He hit two 6s and a boundary off Mrittunjoy's over to bag 19 runs and bring the Tigers back to the hunt. They now needed 24 off 12 after that over.
Shoriful came in to bowl the penultimate over and did he bowl brilliantly! He gave away only 8 runs and picked up the wicket of Yasir. And Miraz did the rest to win the match and take Chattogram Challengers to the second Qualifier.
Miraz picked up a brace for Chattogram while Nasum, Shoriful and Mrittunjoy bagged a wicket each. Apart from Nasum, all the other bowlers were expensive.
Earlier, Chattogram batted first after losing the toss at Mirpur. Walton starred the show with a blistering 89* off 44 deliveries hitting the ball all around the ground.
Chattogram seemed to be in trouble early in the innings after losing Zakir Hasan and skipper Afif Hossain for just 16 runs in the third over. Kennar Lewis played a useful 39-run innings to steady the ship before Walton took the charge and smashed the Khulna bowlers for fun.
The turning point of the match was the 115-run partnership for the fifth wicket by Walton and Miraz. Miraz mostly played the anchor part while Walton did the hitting. Miraz scored 36 off 30 balls after taking his side to a safe total of 189 for 5.
Khaled Ahmed bagged a brace despite giving away 10 runs per over. Nabil Samad, Ruyel Miah and Mahedi Hasan picked up a wicket each.
Walton was adjudged the player of the match for his match-winning knock. He gave credit to Miraz for the brilliant partnership that helped Chattogram seal the match.
"Really appreciate the partnership (with Mehidy). It is unfortunate to see a player like Fletcher leave the tournament after such a knock. It is a very good pitch as you can see with the scores from both teams. You just have to spend some time in the middle and it gets easier. Today we just needed to bat deep and I was able to do that," Walton said at the post-match presentation.
Chattogram will play the loser of the Fortune Barishal-Comilla Victorians match on Wednesday at the same venue.