07:45 PM, December 07, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 08:39 PM, December 07, 2016

Kings restrict Titans to 125

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Khulna Titans continued their poor form with the bat as an excellent bowling and fielding effort from Rajshahi Kings kept Mahmudullah Riyad's team to a modest 125 for nine in the first innings of the Bangladesh Premier League Qualifier 2 at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur today. 

If there is one definitive advantage that Rajshahi Kings hold over other franchises in the Bangladesh Premier League 2016, it is that they have coalesced into a true team, and nowhere is that more apparent than in their fielding. Notwithstanding an edged first-ball boundary over the slips from Abdul Majid after the Titans chose to bat first, the openers were under pressure from disciplined bowling and tight fielding from the start. 

The result was a needless run-out and then a brilliant piece of fielding that produced another. In the first ball of the third over, Mazid played the ball to cover and set off for a run, but then hesitated as Hasanzuzzaman continued on towards the striker’s end. In the next instant both openers were stranded at the same end with Kings keeper Nurul Hasan gleefully sprinting to the non-striker’s end and whipping off the bails with a flourish that ended up clotheslining an onrushing fielder. 

Hasanuzzaman walked back to the pavilion, to be replaced by Nicholas Pooran. A ball later Mazid whipped to midwicket and called for a single, but this time Mehedi Hasan Miraz glided in, took the ball on the bounce and threw down the stumps in one smooth motion. The selfie celebrations were in full view, with a slight variation as Kesrick Williams played the part of the photographer, in bent-knee posture trying to settle on the correct imaginary angle while his teammates all struck a pose. 

12 for two became 17 for three in the fourth over when Shuvagata Hom mishit Forhad Reza to mid-on. 

With Pooran and Mahmudullah Riyad at the crease, there were two options for Titans -- either consolidate and settle for a score around 120 or counterattack and take the sting out of the Kings’ tail. They appeared to choose the latter option with Pooran taking the charge against Miraz in the off-spinner’s first over by hitting two fours -- a slog to deep midwicket and a classy cut four through point – and a six straight down the ground. 

An inside-edged four off Forhad in the next over did nothing to calm Mahmudullah as he retained his attacking shape with a finely flicked boundary through square leg two balls later. Another down-the-wicket six from Pooran off Afif Hossain in the first ball of the seventh over took Titans to 51 for three and offered hopes of a score worthy of a virtual semifinal, but things started to go awry when the left-hander holed out to long off later in the same over for a 10-ball 22.

Benny Howell departed with a leading edge off Samit Patel, which was caught by Darren Sammy at cover in the 11th over to leave the Titans on 74 for five. Eight runs later Khulna’s last hope, Mahmudullah, was caught at point off a top edge for 22 in the 14th over, also off Patel, who took his third wicket when he had Kevon Cooper stumped later that over. Williams then trapped Naeem Islam Jnr in front and Mosharraf Hossain hit a weak shot to mid off to a Sammy slower ball, and all of a sudden an early end to the innings loomed with Khulna on 102 for nine in the 17th.

But Ariful Haque, who came in at number seven, averted complete embarrassment with a 29-ball 32 and some late boundaries to take Khulna to 125 for nine. Patel was Kings’ best bowler with three for 19 off four overs. 

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