Vol. 4 Num 348 Sat. May 22, 2004  

GrameenPhone Corporate Lea-gue
ARAF crowned champs

ARAF Appa-rels clinched the first-ever GrameenPhone Corporate Cricket Lea-gue title when the little known garment house handed favourites Bashundhara Group a five-wicket defeat in the Cup final at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.

Defending a small total of 185 built around Sandeep Sharma's 92, Indian superstar Yuvraj Singh again made amends for his failure with the willow by taking four quick wickets in the exciting day-nighter.

He brought Bashundhara back into contention when ARAF were reduced to 115-5 but a 71-run partnership for the unbroken sixth wicket between captain Halim Shah and Anisur Rahman steered ARAF to 186-5 with seven overs to spare.

After Rafiqul Islam (35 off 70 balls) and in-form Pakistani opener Fahad Ullah (36 off 43 balls) rattled 72 runs in the first 15 overs, ARAF looked like runaway victors.

But as soon as Naimur Rahman trapped Fahad lbw, Yuvraj joined the party.

The Indian left-arm spinner sent back Ehsanul Haque for a duck with the fourth delivery of his first over and clean bowled Shahid Afridi off the last ball of the same over. Pakistani master-blaster Afridi whacked Yuvraj for a six in the first ball he faced but completely missed the line in the next.

Yuvraj, who made only four with the bat, ended his 10-over spell with impressive figures of 4-35 but he could have had a match winning five-wicket haul had his compatriot Sandeep not dropped Halim Shah on six.

The ARAF captain lost Mohammad Salim to Yuvraj but held his nerve during his unbeaten 32 off 76 balls. He also hit a six in the final over of their innings but the winning runs came from the bat of Anisur, who made a run-a-ball 41 not out with four fours and a six off Saifullah Khan.

Earlier, the much-vaunted Bashundhara batting never recovered from losing the top three after they elected to bat.

Left-arm seamer Ashraful Khan bowled a nagging line to finish his nine overs with 2-19 but Under-19 paceman Rubaiat Haq made the inroads when had Al-Shahriar dragging a delivery onto his stumps in the seventh over.

Sharma stayed cool despite losing partners at regular intervals. Bashundhara lost Sabbir Khan and Akram Khan in successive overs with Afridi effecting the run out of the Bashundhara captain for a duck. Akram was caught napping outside his crease when he casually left the non-striking end.

The dashing Yuvraj came to the wicket with the side reeling at 35-3 but the southpaw's 19-ball effort, which saw four singles only, frustrated a 12,000-strong holiday crowd who anticipated early fireworks from the latest Indian one-day wonder.

Yuvraj, who was dismissed for a duck in the semifinal, drove a simple catch to Anisur Rahman at mid-on to give Rubaiat his second wicket.

Sandeep was relieved briefly as Naimur Rahman cracked three boundaries off Rubaiat just after his arrival. The former national captain, who contributed 24 off 35 balls during a 40-run stand with Sandeep, was removed by Afridi when he edged a flash to Arafat Sunny at gully.

Sandeep, who smashed 10 well-timed boundaries and a six in 121 balls, finally found an ally in Enamul Haque and the two added 64 runs in ten overs. The tall Indian opener went on the rampage when he whacked Afridi over the mid-wicket fence in the 43rd over for the only six of the innings.

Afridi, who took 3-40, had the last laugh in his next over when he lured his rival into repeating the shot but this time, the ball skied to Kamrul Islam for an easy catch at deep mid-wicket.

It was the second time Sandeep was dismissed in the 90s after smashing 99 in the semifinal. He ended the tournament with 356 runs with one century and three half-centuries from four matches.

After his departure, the last three Bashundhara wickets fell in the space of seven runs, leaving Enamul stranded on 23 not out off 39 balls.

Bashundhara's Indian opener Sandeep Sharma pulls the ball for four on way to his 92 against ARAF Apparels in the GrameenPhone Corporate Cricket League final at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday. PHOTO: STAR