The second edition of the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) T20 got a new lease of life at the MA Aziz Stadium yesterday. Cricket made an exciting return to the port city venue after a long break through an entertaining opening match in front of a capacity crowd. Sylhet Royals however spoiled the home party as the leaders continued their unbeaten run with a three-wicket victory against Chittagong Kings, but the main talking point was the huge turnout as the tournament had till then been struggling with empty stands in the Dhaka and Khulna legs.
The home crowd was obviously disappointed by the Kings' defeat but there was no shortage of entertainment with Mushfiqur Rahim's Sylhet chasing down a 173-run target with three balls to spare, courtesy of a big-hitting display by man-of-the-match Mohammad Nabi and Elton Chigumbura.
Naeem Islam and Ravi Bopara's 78-run opening stand gave Chittagong Kings a decent total of 172 to defend on a very good batting track and Sylhet's initial damage (56-4) raised hopes of the Kings giving a fitting gift to the capacity crowd, but two fateful overs saw Sylhet turning the tide decisively.
The unfortunate run-out of Paul Stirling, who made a 25-ball 38, might have given Nabi, the cricketer from war-torn Afghanistan, the extra motivation to do something special for his team. Nabi negated the run-rate pressure by hitting some timely boundaries, reserving especially harsh punishment for left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny in the 12th over – which produced 18 with two sixes coming off Nabi's bat -- to sieze the momentum from his opponents.
Kevon Cooper revived the Kings' hope by removing Nabi but Nazmul Hossain and Zimbabwean Chigumbura made sure that his effort was not in vain. Nazmul made a 23-ball 32 with three boundaries but it was Chigumbura who finished the game in style during his unbeaten 17-ball 31.
Sylhet required 17 runs from the last two overs and Shohag Gazi hoisted Bopara over long-on, leaving his side to score eight runs from the last over to be bowled by pacer Rubel Hossain. Rubel was punished in the very first ball as Chigumbura hit a six over long-on and then Sohrawardi Shuvo hit the winning boundary to silence the big crowd for a moment.
Scores In Brief
CHITTAGONG KINGS: 172-6 in 20 overs (Bopara 34, Naeem 72, Doeschate 21, Oram 13 not out, extras 13; Nannes 1-28, Halder 1-19, Shuvo 2-35, Gazi 2-21).
SYLHET ROYALS: 176-7 in 19.3 overs (Stirling 38, Nabi 43, Nazmul 32, Chigumbura 31 not out, extras 11; Oram 1-22, Cooper 3-21, Enamul 1-38, Bopara 1-22).
Result: Sylhet Royals won by three wickets.
Player-of-the-match: Mohammad Nabi.