Like the tournament opener earlier yesterday, the second match of the Bangabandhu T20 Cup was full of drama and suspense as Gemcon Khulna rode on the last over heroics of Ariful Haque to clinch a sensational four-wicket win over Fortune Barishal at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur.
Chasing a 153-run target, Khulna were left needing 22 off the last over. But Ariful provided a grandstand finish by smiting off-spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraz for four incredible sixes to register a memorable win.
Despite Khulna losing wickets at regular intervals, Ariful hung in till the end and the right-hander remained unbeaten on a match-winning 34-ball 44.
Khulna's star all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan made a return to cricket after serving a one-year ban, but it was their pacers that led the way, with seamer Shahidul Islam bagging four wickets and young quickie Hasan Mahmud and Shafiul Islam picking up two each to restrict Barishal to 152 for nine after 20 overs.
Young Parvez Hossain top-scored with 51 off 42 balls, an innings that included four sixes and three fours but none of the other batsman were able to make a mark.
Yet, all eyes were understandably on Shakib and he was introduced into the attack in the seventh over. The left-armer gave away just three runs in the first over and, more importantly, bowled a beautiful line and length.
It did not take long for him to pick up his first wicket as he removed Afif Hossain with his first ball of the second over with a rather loose half-tracker.
Shakib ultimately bowled three overs in the innings and conceded 18 runs but he seemed to be gradually getting into the groove.
The champion cricketer also showed a glimpse of his class with the bat as well when he came in to bat at number three after the early dismissal of Anamul Haque in the chase.
He remained cautious at the start and started to gain momentum and smashed pacer Sumon Khan for a classical cover drive reminiscent of the Shakib that we saw the ICC World Cup last year.
However, Shakib's promising innings came to an end sooner than expected and he departed for 18 off 15 as he was caught at deep square leg after attempting to pull a banged-in delivery from Sumon.