AÂ storming batting performance by Dhaka won this semi-final and propelled us into a winners showdown with the Basiral Burners. But not before Shakib had played the T20 innings of his career to take this match all the way to the very end.
New recruits Saeed Ajmal, Awais Zia and Shahid Afridi arrived from Dubai and were put straight into the team. Unfortunately it meant Darren Stevens and Rana Naved, two of our vitally important performers, had to watch from the bench. And with Keiron Pollard back home in the West Indies, the balance of the team was skewed heavily towards spin.
A brilliant performance by Imran Nazir (41) with the bat, who has been a revelation at the top of the order and another masterful innings by birthday boy Azhar Mahmood (65), got over the initial disappointment of Zia (5) and Nazimuddin's (1) wickets. The two took us to what was appearing a large total after winning the toss, and when Ashraful replaced Imran he played a stylish and well-constructed innings, scoring at over 142 strike rate. He was latterly joined by Afridi who smoked three 6s in his 11-ball 27, with Ashraful finishing unbeaten on 47.
It meant we finished 191-4, which is a daunting run chase for any team.
KRB started badly though, losing their first 4 wickets for just 55 due to a combination of poor batting shots and great bowling by Dhaka. But this simply set the scene for Shakib and Nasir Hossain to set about an unlikely run chase. Both players kept close to the required 10 per over run rate and whilst Nasir looked like he might give his wicket away at some stage, Shakib did not. Nasir perished for 35 in 28 balls to a big stroke meaning the momentum at both ends had been lost. In the end the game went all the way to last over and despite it being a 9 run win, the closeness of the result slightly flattered KRB who never really quite got their run chase ahead.
Shakib, who was shown to be caught behind in his 40s off Elias Sunny but given not out, went on to finish 86 not out and played a high quality innings. In other circumstances he would have been man of the match, but that went to Azhar Mahmood, who is one of the major contenders for winning the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.
With Ashraful again fantastic in the field and Sunny leading wicket-taker in the tournament, it shows that Dhaka has not relied on one player or one man to get this far. Regardless of the Final result tonight, Dhaka has been the best all-round team and utilized the skills of local players like Mashrafe, Ashraful, Sunny, Rubel and Anamul, who have all been important parts of the Dhaka team. It has not been all about the overseas players doing all the work - far from it.
A special shout out last night for Dhiman Ghosh who was quite outstanding behind the stumps standing up to Afridi, Ajmal and Sunny. It does show there is good talent emerging in Bangladesh and I am happy to have worked with these guys.
We have already beaten Barisal Burners in both round matches but this means nothing on a big occasion. As we saw by turning round two losses to KRB last night, anything can happen in T20 cricket.
Whatever has happened before, whatever things have or haven't worked in the BPL and regardless of all the issues up to this point, the Final proposes to be a cracking affair of big hitting. Win or lose, it's been a great squad effort to haul ourselves into the last match with injuries and ongoing illness. Rana Naved for example has played the entire tournament with a fractured finger for example yet never complained once, such is the commitment and attitude of key people in and around the team.
I said at the press conference before the BPL started that we were here to entertain and to win the event.Â We are all just proud that we have helped make the BPL an exciting spectacle. There's a final chapter to be written. By around 9pm tonight we will know what that chapter reads....