Chattogram Challengers recorded their first win of the 2023 Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) with a comfortable 9-wicket win over Khulna Tigers.
The Chattogram Challengers overcame the disappointment they had in their first match against Sylhet Strikers, where they lost by eight wickets.
Chattogram Challengers captain Shuvagata Hom won the toss and invited the Khulna Tigers to bat first. Yasir Ali's men finished with 178/5 thanks to a century from Azam Khan.
In the second innings, the winning side made it extremely comfortable thanks to a wonderful opening partnership between Usman Khan and Max O'Dowd. Usman stayed unbeaten at 103 as his team chased the target down in the last over. He was also judged man of the match for his outstanding innings.
Chattogram Challengers are currently on 2 points after two matches played. On the other hand, the Khulna Tigers are yet to get on the points board after two matches.
Chattogram Challengers Decides The Game Again
We can safely say that the match was decided by the way in which both the teams played the powerplay overs. In the first innings, the Khulna Tigers lost Sharjeel Khan and Habibur Rahman in the first overs.
Hence, Tamim and Azam spent most of the time trying to repair the innings before attacking the final overs.
On the other hand, the Chattogram Challengers were aggressive right from the last ball. As they didn't lose any wickets, both Usman and O'Dowd took care of the poor balls to put Hom's men in the driver's seat. At the end of six overs, Chattogram Challengers were sitting comfortably at 50 without a wicket.
Khulna Tigers' Player Azam Khan Rises To The Occasion
The 2019 runner-ups were struggling at 12 with the loss of two wickets when Azam came to the crease. Firstly, he created a fantastic 92-run partnership with Tamim Iqbal.
Eventually, he got to his century in the last over by smashing Mrittunjoy Chowdhury for a six-over deep mid-wicket. The right-handed batsman raised his bat and helmet to acknowledge the applause from his colleagues in the dressing room and the entire stadium. The Islamabad United batsman stayed unbeaten at 109.
Surprisingly, Azam and Tamim were two of the only three batsmen of Khulna Tigers who got to double figures in the entire innings.
Azam's innings ring alarm bells in the Pakistan selection committee. There has been criticism about Pakistan's inconsistent middle order in the T20 format. Although the right-handed batsman has scored runs in Pakistan Super League and the overseas leagues, he hasn't been able to make it to the Pakistan team.
He initially was picked for the World T20 in 2021 but got replaced by Shoaib Malik at the last second.
Considering the fact that there is a new regime in the Pakistan Cricket Board, we may see Azam coming back in the Pakistan jersey again.
Usman Khan's Match-Winning Innings
If one Pakistan batsman wasn't enough, another one came up with an even better knock. Usman's sublime innings gave no chance to the Khulna Tigers as Chattogram ran away with the innings.
The right-handed Pakistani batsman scored an unbeaten 109 runs off 58 balls. He had a strike rate of 177.59, with ten fours and five sixes.
He was supported remarkably by O'Dowd, who scored 58 off 50 balls with five fours and three sixes. The pair added 141 runs for the opening wicket before O'Dowd was dismissed by Nahidul Islam.
Despite the wicket in the 15th over, the Chattogram Challengers barely felt the pressure as Usman carried on with his blistering knock.
Just like Azam, Usman got to three figures with a six. He got to three figures in the second last over after steering Mohammad Saifuddin for a six on the offside.
The six off Saifuddin was the key as the Chattogram Challengers needed only five runs in the last over. The match finished with Paul van Meekeren overstepping on the third ball, which got Hom's men over the line.
"Our coach told us that the target is big and you need to stay at the wicket to track it down. We started slowly and understood the pace of the wicket. We have been practicing for the last four days. We have been batting as a pair in the nets. When I was hitting them, he took it easy," Usman said in the post-match interview.
Spinners Remain Effective For The Chattogram Challengers
Although this game was dominated by the bat across both innings, the Chattogram Challengers can be happy with the performance of their spin department.
The Chattogram Challengers captain Hom was magisterial with his off-break. He gave away only 15 runs off his three overs with the important wicket of Sharjeel.
Vijayakanth Viyaskanth was also effective with his leg break. He broke the 92-wicket stand between Iqbal and Azam. The 21-year-old conceded 29 runs off his three overs.
With the wickets not favoring the fast bowlers in Asia, the Chattogram Challengers must think about bringing more options to the spin department. Their only stand-out fast bowler was Abu Jayed, who took two wickets for 29 runs in his four overs.
Khulna Tigers' Player Sharjeel Khan Disappoints With The Bat
In a game where two Pakistani batsmen attracted the headlines, there was one Pakistan batsman who is still short on confidence. Share simply hasn't gotten going so far in this BPL 2023 season.
The left-handed batsman came into this season after a strong showing in the Pakistan domestic season. However, the Karachi Kings batsman hasn't delivered yet.
One of the reasons why the 2019 runner-ups haven't been able to get ideal starts in both of their matches is because of their openers.
In the first match against Minister Group Dhaka, Sharjeel scored only 7 runs off 11 balls. In the match against Chattogram Challengers, he once again went cheaply for just 5 runs.
Just like Azam, the Karachi Kings opener also has a point to prove to the new Pakistan cricket selection committee. Considering his power-hitting ability, many pundits believe that he should be part of Pakistan's T20 team in the top order.
Sharjeel still has plenty of matches in BPL 2023 and the entire PSL season to justify his importance in limited-overs cricket. However, he's not going to get any place in the squad let alone the team if he produces these sorts of performances.