The Bangladesh Premier League T20 cricket playoffs continue Sunday, with a single match pitting Rangpur Riders against Barisal Bulls for the right to face the red-hot Comilla Victorians in Tuesday's BPL 2015 Championship Final in Dhaka. The Victorians, who finished atop the BPL group stage table, booked their spot in the final with a definitive 72-run thrashing of Rangpur on Saturday.
Comilla Captain Mashrafe Mortaza played Saturday's qualifier despite a nagging hamstring injury, but was not surprisingly limited to just a single run. But Comilla did not require their skipper's best efforts, thanks to a stellar all-round performance by Pakistan-born Sussex player Ashar Zaidi, as well as a productive opening stand of 67 by Bangladesh international Imrul Kayes.
The 34-year-old Zaidi, who is currently without an English or Pakistan domestic club, broke out as the star of the day, however, with one of the 2015 BPL's most attention-grabbing outings.
After posting an impressive 40 not out in the first innings after Comilla lost the toss and were inserted by Rangpur Captain and Bangladesh superstar Shakib Al Hasan, Zaidi came back with the ball and claimed four wickets for just 11 runs, a stingy economy rate of just 2.75, as the Victorians attack bowled out Rangpur in 17 over for a mere 91 runs.
— Comilla Victorians (@ComillaV) December 12, 2015
In another eye-opening performance for Comilla, 19-year-old left arm pacer Abu Hider continued to prove that he could be the next international star for Bangladesh, taking four wickets in three overs to stretch his Bangladesh Premier League-leading total to 21 for the tournament.
For Tigers fans, a bowling attack featuring both 20-year-old Mustafizur Rahman and Abu Hider is certainly a cause for optimism as Bangladesh hopes to follow its breakout year in international cricket with an even better 2016.
Watch live streaming of Sunday's Rangpur Riders vs. Barisal Bulls Bangladesh Premier League playoff second qualifier match in the video below. Or, as an alternative, see the streaming info in the final paragraph of this article. The game is scheduled to get underway at 6:30 p.m. local time at Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka. That's 7:30 a.m. Eastern Time in the United States, 4:30 a.m. Pacific, on Sunday, December 13.
Their one-sided loss to Comilla allowed Rangpur a second chance, which they'll try to turn into gold when they face Barisal.
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Following the Saturday qualifier, Shakib described Comilla as "lucky," but admitted that his team was demoralized at needing to chase down a total of 163.
"The biggest thing about them was that they were a bit lucky," the Rangpur captain told the Dhaka Tribune. "They wielded their bat at will, and whatever didn't hit, it missed (the stumps) and the ones that hit went to the boundary. When they posted 160, I don't think our players believed that we could have brought that total down."
The Bulls got 31 on 19 balls from Chris Gayle, before the West Indies living legend was bowled on an inswinger from Mustafizur.
But it was the bowling attack that really won the match, allowing the Bulls to defend 135 by 18 runs, as Al-Amin Hossain of Bangladesh and the West Indies Kevon Cooper grabbed three wickets each.
Hossain took the key wicket of the game when he induced a pop-up from Dhaka Dynamites Captain and Sri Lanka great Kumar Sangakkara, dismissing the 2015 BPL tournament's top run-scorer for just 10.
To watch the Rangpur Riders vs. Barisal Bulls Bangladesh Premier League 2015 T20 cricket playoff second qualifier match live online from Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka, go to ESPN3, the online-only channel in the ESPN network, which will carry the game live at this link. ESPN3 will also carry the BPL 2015 Final on Tuesday, December 15. The ESPN3 streaming channel is free to subscribers of most major internet service providers and many minor ISPs, as well. For a full list, check this link.
[Image via Comilla Victorians Facebook]