Mohammad Ashraful yesterday hit his fourth century in the Dhaka Premier League, the most by a player in the country's List A competition this year. Still, it was not enough for Kalabagan Krira Chakra to avoid a stinging six-wicket defeat against Agrani Bank in the first relegation playoff match at the BKSP in Savar, where the bankers rode on an equally impressive ton from discarded Bangladesh opener Shahriar Nafees to keep their hopes of staying in the top flight alive.
More importantly, the match hammered the last nail in Kalabagan's coffin as the defeat confirmed their demotion from the top-tier with two more games still to be played.
Kalabagan will face Brothers Union on April 1, but with four points against Brothers' eight and Agrani's ten, they can now only play for pride before the crucial Brothers-Agrani game on April 4, which will decide the other team to be relegated.
Ashraful, the disgraced former Bangladesh captain who returned to action last year after serving three years of a five-year domestic ban for match-fixing, struck an unbeaten 103 as Kalabagan recovered from a shaky start to post a fighting 246 for five in their share of 50 overs. The right-hander shared 163 runs for the fourth wicket with Taibur Rahman after Kalabagan were reduced to 36 for three in 13.1 overs. Taibur struck a 117-ball 82 that included 10 boundaries.
Ashraful carried his bat till the end in his undefeated 137-ball knock that contained eight fours and a couple of sixes. It was the 33-year-old's second century on the trot after 127 against Mohammedan in their last group league fixture of the first phase. Unfortunately three out of his four centuries, including 104 against Prime Doleshwar, ended up being for a lost cause.
Interestingly his other century, 102 not out also against Agrani Bank, fetched Kalabagan one of two rare wins in the first phase.
Shahriar Nafees was dismissed on 99 in that game. However, the experienced left-hander made amends yesterday when he scored 109 as the bankers raced to victory and finished on 250 for four, with more than four overs to spare. The southpaw struck 13 fours and two sixes in his 142-ball knock. It was his second ton after 121 against leaders Abahani.
In the match, Agrani Bank did not seem troubled even once as their other opener, Soumya Sarker, gave them brisk start, hitting 24 in an opening stand of 45 in just 6.3 overs. But the most disappointing aspect of the talented left-hander is that he failed to make it big, despite getting starts in almost every innings he played in the League. Shariar and Salman put on 172 runs for the second wicket to take their side close to the comfortable win. Salman scored a fine 83 off 93 balls studded with 11 fours before being dismissed by Nahid Hasan.
Shahriar became one of the two victims of Ashraful's mixed bag of spinners, but by that time Kalabagan's fate was sealed.
SCORES IN BRIEF
KALABAGAN KC: 246 for 5 in 50 overs (Ashraful 103 not out, Taibur 82, Riyazul 27 not out; Soumya 2-46)
AGRANI BANK CC: 250 for 4 in 45.5 overs (Nafees 109, Soumya 24, Salman 83; Nahid 2-52)
Result: Agrani Bank won by 6 wickets.