Having been bowled out for a team low 76 in our previous match, we promptly posted our highest ever total of 159-6 in Chittagong to kick off our Bangladesh foray.
We had actually lost both openers without a run on the board and were soon 13-3 before messrs Okocha and Jiminez riposted. Nigerian left-hander Okocha (69*) hit a long awaited maiden fifty that tied the highest individual innings by any our batsmen. Gloveman Jiminez (47) fell just short of a half-century of his own (What would’ve been his second) but the partnership of 115 was another team record.
We then restricted the hosts to 128-4 to seal a hugely encouraging 31-run victory. Egyptian slow-left-armer Mohamed El Mohamedy claimed 2-32 though was actually the most expensive of a hugely economical bowling effort.
Sadly, we lost our second game, failing to post a decent total despite being well placed at one stage. In our third game however, we fought back in record-breaking style.
In Dhaka, we restricted Dhaka Dragons to 118-9, which in truth was a little disappointing having had them on the back foot at 55-7. Russian seamer Roman Andryushkin (3-19) starred with the ball whilst captain Norshahrul Rashid nonchalantly claimed 2-1 with his leg-spin! El The Pharaoh Mohamedy (2-26) was in form in the powerplay once more.
The one advantage of conceding so many runs was the possibilities it afforded our opening batsmen. In a thoroughly professional run chase, American Jamal Peters (38*) and German Mario Kuntz (69*) both posted career best scores whilst at the same time producing the team’s highest ever partnership. The-right hand/left-hand duo finished on 119-0 with 5.5 overs in hand. Peters, for whom it had been a long road, actually made his highest score for the second consecutive match. Meanwhile vice-captain Kuntz ended a painfully lean run of form. Bizarrely, our three highest individual scores at this point in time were all 69 not out by Phillipio, Okocha and Kuntz whilst the latter also has a 68*.
We then fell to Earth with an almighty bump by losing our next two matches, the second of which was hard to stomach. We posted 138-4, led by in-form Okocha (48) as well as Phillipio (25), who hinted at a return to form. Both were run out, Okocha off the last delivery of the innnings.
We then had Rajshahi in trouble at 75-5 after the ever reliable El Mohamedy (2-35) and in-form Andryushkin (2-27) did their bit in the powerplay. Somehow though, we contrived to let them win by four wickets with one ball to spare and highlight how much we have to learn!
Highlighting our consistent inconsistency, we then won a rain affected 16 overs per side match in Rangpur. Following our incredibly frustrating defeat in the previous match, we made a number of changes to our playing XI although these were mainly due to the wet conditions. We won a crucial toss and limited the home side to just 87-3. That man Andryushkin conceded just 10 runs from 3 overs and were it not for overthrows, would’ve commenced proceedings with a maiden.
Though our openers couldn’t repeat their 10-wicket win heroics from earlier in the competition, Phillipio (23*) and the man of the moment Okocha (45*) eased us home with 3.3 overs to spare. The boys showed great character following the rollicking they received after the painful loss only days before.
What was that about consistent inconsistency?
In our next match, we restricted Sylhet to 136-6 (Wu 2-26) but in hindsight were a bit generous with our bowling changes and accommodated them too many runs. 123-8 (Kuntz 36) was a decent chase by our standards but we felt we could’ve pushed the opposition even closer and like I say, could’ve limited the required total in the first place. A 13-run defeat was thoroughly underwhelming.
In our following game at home to Barisal, opening batsmen Peters and Kuntz posted a dominant opening stand of 98. Peters (33) fell in the thirties yet again however, blowing a golden opportunity to finally bring up a maiden fifty. Kuntz soon reached 69, remember that our three top innings to date were 69* as well as Kuntz having a 68*. Would you believe he was spectacularly caught and bowled for… 69?! With a whopping 7.2 overs remaining, a hundred was there for the taking. Will anybody ever reach 70?! The rest of our batsmen came out and applied themselves well to take us to our highest ever score of 165-4, only five of which were extras.
To be fair to Barisal, they had a go at chasing down the total and reached 61 before losing their first wicket. Italian left-arm quick Roberto Biabini, who hadn’t seen much first team action in recent times, then stepped up to the plate. He claimed a sensational hat-trick, courtesy of two outstanding grabs by gloveman Jiminez after the Italian had angled full deliveries across the right-handed batsmen. Come crunch time, Peters, who had held two similar catches in the previous match, pouched a steepler to write Biabini’s name in history. It was our team’s first ever hat-trick and the Italian finished with team record bowling figures of 4-21! It was nice that it should happen on our home ground as we romped home by 23 runs.
At the halfway stage of the competition, eight games played and eight to play (Obviously!), we sat in 5th (Or joint 4th) place with Barisal, with four wins and four losses to our name. Moses Okocha was our leading runscorer to date but some way short of the league leaders. Mohamed El Mohamedy was our team topper on the bowling front.
Look out for the next round up at the conclusion of the campaign.