October 5, 2023, 5:16 am

Sports Correspondent

2023-02-18 00:46:40 BdST

Comilla Victorians retain BPL title in style

Comilla Victorians retained the title of Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), the country’s lone franchise-based domestic T20 tournament, beating Sylhet Strikers by seven wickets in the thrilling final at the jam-packed Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur on Thursday.

Johnson Charles was the star of the final as he struck a sensational knock of unbeaten 79 off 52 balls, including seven fours and five sixes, while Liton Das made a brilliant 55 off 39 balls with Comilla reaching 176-3 in 19.2 overs to become the only second franchise after Dhaka Gladiators (in 2013) to retain the BPL title.

Charles was named player of the final while Shanto, who made highest 516 runs, was adjudged player of the tournament.

It was Comilla’s fourth BPL title overall – the highest by any franchise in the tournament history – as they previously won the title in 2015, 2019 and 2022.

Earlier, Mushfiqur Rahim struck an unbeaten 74 off 48 balls – his second fifty in the tournament – while in-form Najmul Hossain Shanto scored 64 off 45 balls as Sylhet posted 175-7 in their 20 overs after they were sent into bat first.

Chasing a decent total, Comilla lost Sunil Narine (10) in the third over while skipper Imrul Kayes (two) followed him soon and Comilla found them reeling at 34-2 in the fourth over.

Liton and Charles then repaired the early damage by putting up 70 runs in the third wicket before the former became Rubel Hossain’s second victim in the match.

Sylhet bowlers then bowled some excellent overs to make the equation 52 off the last 24 balls but Charles and Moeen Ali (25 not out) smashed Rubel (2-39) for 23 runs, including three sixes and a four, to bring the equation to their favour.

Charles then hit Luke Wood for 18 runs, including two sixes and a four, to make the equation – three off the final over and the Caribbean batsman scored the winning single off Mashrafe bin Mortaza to give their side an emphatic victory in the final.

With this win, Comilla, which started the tournament with three consecutive defeats, finished the tournament with successive 11 wins – a new BPL record itself.

Earlier, after an eventful first over in the final where Comilla fielders conceded two overthrow boundaries (total 18 runs), left-arm spinner Tanvir Islam drew the first blood by removing Towhid Hridoy (0).

Sylhet gambled once again by sending their skipper Mashrafe at number three but it did not  work for them like in the previous knockout matches as he was dismissed by Andre Russell after making just one run.

Shanto and Mushfiqur then steadied the ship for Sylhet as they added 79 runs in the third wicket stand before the former was bowled by Moeen after hitting nine fours and a six.

Earlier, on his way to fifty, Najmul became the first Bangladeshi batter in BPL history to score 500 runs in a season. Previously Mushfiqur scored 491 runs during the 2020 edition for Khulna Tigers and it was the highest score for a Bangladeshi batter in one season.

Meanwhile, both the batters were lucky in their innings as Shanto was dropped twice by Comilla pacer Mustafizur Rahman and skipper Imrul Kayes on 29 and 37 runs respectively while Mushfiqur was dropped by Charles on 22.

Sylhet then lost wickets at regular intervals as Ryan Burl (13), Thisara Perera (0), George Linde (nine) and Zakir Hasan (one) but Mushfiqur remained firm at one end as he smashed some big shots in the slog overs to help his side post a challenging total on board in the final.

Comilla fielders had a poor day on the field as they dropped as many as six catches while they also had a couple of fielding errors which helped Sylhet to go past the 170-run mark.

Mustafizur finished with 2-31 while Rusell, Moeen, Tanvir and Narine took one wicket each for Comilla.

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