Charles’ power seals back-to-back BPL titles for Comilla Victorians

Comilla Victorians batsman Johnson Charles celebrates with teammates after hitting the winning runs against Sylhet Strikers in the final of the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) 2023 at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka on 16 February, 2023Shamsul Hoque

Johnson Charles once again proved brutal hitting is the most effective mean in Twenty20 as he powered his side the Comilla Victorians to their fourth Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) title with a seven-wicket win over Sylhet Strikers on Thursday.

Charles entertained the packed Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium crowd as he scored 79 off 52 balls with seven fours and five sixes to help his side reach the target of 176 with seven wickets in hand and four balls to spare.

Even after the end of the match, when SBNS saw a prolonged celebration of laser show and fireworks, the muscular shots of the Caribbean still remained the night’s biggest spectacle.

In retrospective, one may feel the more powerful and impactful foreign recruits of Comilla in lights of Charles, Moeen Ali, Sunil Narine and Andre Russell prevailed over their weaker counterparts of Sylhet.

Comilla got off to a quick start in the chase as their opening pair Liton Das and Sunil Narine formed a 27- run stand from 14 balls before the latter got dismissed for 10.

Comilla skipper Imrul kayes, who won his third BPL trophy as captain, continued his poor batting form as he got dismissed for just two when he was held at deep by Thisara Perera off the bowling of George Linde.

Charles joined Liton for the third wicket stand but took time to build his innings while the latter thrived with some beautiful shots to keep the scoreboard ticking.

A nice running catch from Najmul Hossain Shanto in the boundary dismissed Liton for 55 off 39.

Comilla at that stage required 72 off 44 balls. The two experienced batters Charles and Moeen then consumed some deliveries which made the equation 52 off 24 balls.

Sylhet might feel they had a chance to clinch the match but Charles had other ideas. The Caribbean batter unleashed his power after the match’s final timeout and Rubel Hossain had no way of stopping his barrage.

Moeen struck a six in the first ball of the 17th over before Charles hit two sixes and a four in last three balls. After the 23-run over off Rubel, the equation for Comilla came down to 29 off 18 balls.

Tanzim Hasan conceded eight in the following over but Charles pressed on the accelerator once again as he struck two maximums in the first two balls of the 19th over bowled by Luke Wood.

Comilla needed just three runs from the last over and Sylhet skipper Mashrafe decided to bowl for the first time in the match.

The experienced pacer decided to ball spin. He started with a wide before Moeen and Charles calmly took two more singles to seal the deal.

Earlier in the match, after losing the toss, Sylhet lost two early wickets but ended up putting a decent score thanks to half centuries of Mushfiqur Rahim, Najmul Hossain Shanto and some sloppy fielding from Comilla.

Comilla got rid off in-form Towhid Hridoy, who scored 403 at an average of 43.10 and strike rate of 141.40, for a duck and also removed one-down Mashrafe bin Mortaza, who unsuccessfully tried to replicate his success as a pinch hitter in the previous two games, for one.

But the Comilla fielder were seemingly hell-bent on helping Sylhet’s cause, conceding three fours from fielding gaffes and dropping four catches.

Shanto, who finally got out for 64 off 45 and became the highest scorer of the tournament with 516 runs, got two reprieves as Mustafizur Rahman dropped him off Sunil Narine in the fifth over and Imrul Kayes dropped him in the eighth over when Tanvir Islam was bowling.

Najmul Hossain Shanto and Mushfiqur Rahim
Shamsul Hoque

Shanto was bowled by Moeen Ali in the 13th over but Mushfiq continued his onslaught and lifted the total to 175-7.

The experienced batter scored 74 off 48 with the help of five fours and three sixes and remained not out till the end.