Rajshahi Royals captain Andre Russell smashed an unbeaten 54 off 22 deliveries against Chattogram Challengers in the second qualifier to claim the man-of-the-match award and guide his side to the final of the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL).
Russell’s men will now face Khulna Tigers in the final in a repeat of the first qualifier, where Muhammad Amir ran through the Rajshahi line-up with a six-for.
Chattogram were given a superb start to proceedings by West Indies star Chris Gayle, who smashed 60 off just 24 deliveries in a brutal onslaught that made a mockery of the troubles his fellow batsmen were facing at the other end.
Gayle was well-supported by skipper Mahmudullah, who made 33 off 18, but the duo’s dismissal in consecutive overs meant Chattogram lost their way a little and finished on 164-9 despite being 97-2 after 9.1 overs.
Pakistani pacer Muhammad Irfan and compatriot Muhammad Nawaz were the stars of the show for Rajshahi with the ball. Irfan claimed 2-16 in his four overs but his impressive figures were bettered by left-arm spinner Nawaz, who finished with 2-13 in his four.
The Royals then suffered a top-order collapse that saw them slump to 34-3 within the powerplay but Russell seemed like a man on a mission as he smashed 54 off just 22 deliveries to guide his team over the line almost single-handedly.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Irfan Sukkur’s anchoring 45 off 42 deliveries helped set up the stage for Russell while Shoaib Malik (14 off 22) and Nawaz (14 off five) apiece albeit in two very different phases of the game.