The opening round match of the 9th Na-tional Cricket League be-tween heavyweights Khulna and Dhaka ended in a draw yesterday but there was no shortage of excitement on the final day of the four-dayer at the Mirpur Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium.
Brilliant batsmanship of Dhaka skipper Mohammad Ashraful was the highlight of the day as the prolific right-hander's 85-run knock not only salvaged a draw for the home side but also had raised hopes of winning the game at one stage under difficult conditions -- the ball kept low while the outfield was slowish.
Left-handed batsman Mehrab Hossain also deserved some credit as the number five kept cool during his unbeaten 184-ball 62, as Dhaka -- needing 224 runs on the day after resuming on 72-2 -- scored 284 for eight while chasing a winning target of 314.
While Ashraful expressed his satisfaction over the outcome, his counterpart Habibul Bashar was disappointed because of some missed opportunities despite the fact that his side secured eleven points against the hosts' four bonus points.
"I am specially happy because the way both the teams fought in the match. It was not easy to make runs on this kind of surface," said national skipper Ashraful.
"I think we were deprived of an outright victory because of our poor fielding as we slipped as many as four vital catches," said Bashar.
Overnight three, Ashraful gave two early chances. But Syed Rasel dropped a sitter at mid-off off Mashrafe Bin Mortaza. Ashraful never looked back on way to execute a well-composed knock.
A victory looked on sight when he paired with Mehrab for the fourth wicket in front of a lively crowd after overnight batsman Javed Omar was caught behind off the bowling Shakib Al Hasan for 45. However, leading paceman Mashrafe broke the 76-run stand in his very first over after lunch to shatter Dhaka's hopes.
Ashraful, who smashed four boundaries and two mid-wicket sixes against left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak during his 152-ball essay, had hardly played any loose shot but once he tried to slash Mashrafe uppishly with the second new ball, he only holed out to the safe hands of Razzak at third-man just an over before tea.
Khulna revived their hopes in the final session when pace trio Mashrafe, Dollar Mahmud and Rasel took quick wickets but Mehrab with help of Mosharraf Hossain's unbeaten eight off 48 balls, took the side to safety.
Rasel was the most successful bowler with three for 65 while Mashrafe captured 2-71.
Abdur Razzak was adjudged man of the match for his all-round performance as the Khulna left-arm spinner scored a crucial 78 not in the first innings apart from scalping four wickets.
KHULNA: 303-9 dec and 184 all out.
DHAKA: 174 and 284-8 in 114 overs (overnight 72-2) (Javed 45, Anwar 4, Shahriar 24, Ashraful 85, Mehrab 62*, Riyad 14, Nadif 10, Rafique 1, Sharif 1, Mosharraf 8*; Mashrafe 2-71, Rasel 3-65, Dollar 1-38, Razzak 1-67, Shakib 1-20).
Result: Match drawn.