Pakistani all-rounder Mohammad Nawaz appeared to be the unlikely hero as Rajshahi Royals outclassed Khulna Tigers by 21 runs to clinch their maiden Bangladesh Premier League title in Mirpur on Friday.
Nawaz took the packed Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium by a storm by hitting an unbeaten 41 off 20 balls to lift Rajshahi to 170-4 before he claimed a vital wicket to help the side restrict Khulna to 149-8.
Rajshahi captain Andre Russell played his part to smash 27 off 16 balls and shared 71-run with Nawaz in an unbroken fifth-wicket stand in little over five overs to take the momentum toward his side.
Mohammad Irfan and Abu Jayed struck in successive overs after Nawaz and Russell blitz to leave Khulna 11-2 before Shamsur Rahman and Rilee Rossouw showed some resistance with a 74-run third-wicket stand.
Nawaz dismissed Rossouw for 37 runs to break the partnership as Rajshahi soon established their control with few quick breakthroughs.
Kamrul Islam took the vital wicket of Shamsur Rahman, who played the innings of his BPL career by making 52 off 43 balls after surviving a run out scare on 30.
Rossouw, who fell five runs short of making 500 runs in successive editions of BPL, was also survived a drop chance while batting on 18.
Russell ended Khulna’s hope by bowling out Mushfiqur Rahim after Bangladesh talisman could make just 21 runs.
Mushfiq, who faced 15 balls, ended his BPL with 491 runs, four runs short of team-mate Rossouw but highest by a Bangladeshi in a single edition of the tournament, overtaking Tamim Iqbal’s 476 in 2016.
Russell took the final wicket fittingly by bowling out Shahidul Islam for a duck before Khulna somehow completed their allotted overs with 30 needing from the last six balls.
Unheralded wicketkeeper-batsman Irfan Sukkur earlier top-scored for Rajshahi with 52 off 35 balls after Liton Das provided them a slow start making 25 off 28 balls.
Mehedi Hasan took a spectacular catch off Mohammad Amir to dismiss Afif Hossain for 10 to help Khulna get the first breakthrough before Liton and Sukkur put 49 runs for the second wicket to steady the ship.
Though Rajshahi lost Shoaib Malik cheaply for nine runs, Russell and Nawaz still got a good platform to add some late impetus after coming together in the 15th over of the innings.
Russell began from where he ended in the last qualifier, when he made a swashbuckling 54 off 22 balls, by hitting three sixes this time but surprisingly Nawaz took the role of the chief destroyer by clubbing six fours and two sixes.
Robbie Frylinck bore the brunt of Nawaz’s onslaught as he took 21 runs with two fours and as many sixes off the 18th over of the innings bowled by the South African.
Russell then gave Amir and Shafiul Islam their due treatment in the next two overs to give his side an imposing total that was always going to be tough to knock off in a crunch match like the final of a tournament.
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