Having started the final-round match as frontrunners to retain the title with a 13-point lead at the top of the table, things changed dramatically for BCB North Zone as second-placed Prime Bank South Zone took charge of their Bangladesh Cricket League encounter through an Abdur Razzak special at the Sheikh Abu Naser Stadium in Khulna yesterday.
Razzak's five for 53 helped bundle out North for just 187 and South Zone finished the first day of the four-day match well on top on 115 for one. The only casualty was that of opener Soumya Sarkar for 12, but fellow opener Anamul Haque (52) and Imrul Kayes (51) held firm thereafter.
It represents a big step towards the title as, if they win, South stand to gain a maximum of 19 points – 10 points for the win and up to nine points for first-innings bonuses.
Razzak's 33rd five-wicket gave him the record for most five-fors in first-class cricket by a Bangladeshi, surpassing Enamul Haque Jnr's high mark of 32.
“I had no idea about the record until someone called me downstairs and informed me about the feat,” Razzak told The Daily Star yesterday. “Obviously it feels good to pick wickets but to be honest we bowled really well to bundle out the opposition for a small total as we did get some assistance from the pitch, but we know the pitch in Khulna has always offered a lot of runs.”
Lending weight to Razzak's assessment of Khulna is the fact that as recently as the third round of the current edition in January, East Zone posted the highest total at the venue -- 735 for six against Central Zone. The lowest score at the venue is 54 by Khulna Division against Chittagong Division, but that came more than nine years ago in December 2008.
Although there was some moisture and a bit of grass on the pitch, North Zone will be disappointed to lose the momentum in the all-important match as many of their batsmen were guilty of throwing away their wickets.
After being asked to bat, North did manage to overcome the early loss of Junaid Siddique when the left-hander was caught off Bangladesh ODI skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, who was playing his first game of the BCL.
The two in-form batsman in Mizanur Rahman and Nazmul Hossain Shanto did all the hard work to survive the tough period, but when Mizanur chanced his arms and tried to clear the in-field, he went into the shot a bit early and was caught at mid-on off left-arm spinner Saqlain Sajib after scoring 22. Sajib then removed Farhad Hossain (12) and things only became bleaker for North Zone when Razzak was introduced into the attack in the 19th over of the innings.
From 71 for three North Zone's batting lineup collapsed like a house of cards courtesy of some accurate bowling from Razzak. He started with a maiden wicket, bowling North Zone skipper Jahurul Islam for one.
In a probing spell in searing conditions, the 35-year-old veteran went on to add the wickets of Dhiman Ghosh, Ariful Haque, Taijul Islam and Shafiul Islam. It could well have been worse for North, but Sohrawardi Shuvo hit an unbeaten 59 and constructed a 10th-wicket partnership of 42 with Shafiul. North will definitely miss two of their in-form pacers Yeasin Arafat, who is suffering from typhoid, while Shoriful Islam missed out due to a groin injury.
In the other match of the day at the Shaheed Kamruzzaman Stadium in Rajshahi, Central Zone moved into the driving seat after the first day, posting 406 for four courtesy of twin centuries from Abdul Mazid and Shadman Islam. Mazid retired hurt on 159 after suffering a side strain and Shadman scored 112. East Zone off-spinner Sohag Gazi was the pick of the bowlers and bagged three wickets in the bat-dominated day.
“Oh, it's better not to say how hot the weather was. It's boiling hot. It felt like I bowled 80 overs, although I bowled just 20 [20.3] overs,” left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak said about the scorching heat.
“It is very tough to play longer-version cricket in this season,” added Bangladesh's first bowler to 500 first-class wickets, who achieved another record yesterday by claiming his 33rd five-wicket haul -- the highest in Bangladesh first-class cricket -- and ending with figures of five for 53 runs to give South Zone a perfect start against North Zone in Khulna.
Conditions were much the same in Rajshahi, where Central Zone are playing against East Zone.
“Too hot,” informed Central Zone batsman Marshall Ayub.