Kent’s Azhar Mahmood and Darren Stevens are quickly adding to their Twenty20 reputations with match-winning performances in this month’s inaugural Bangladesh Premier League event.
The Kent veterans, aged 36 and 35 respectively, have helped their BPL franchise Dhaka Gladiators to four victories in the tournament to date and a place in the knock-out stages now seems likely.
Though his place in the batting order has swapped and changed from game to game, Stevens has consistently chipped in with spritely 20s and 30s to see his side over the finish line. Mahmood, a surprise choice to open the innings on occasions, has overcome an uncertain start and a back niggle to excel with both bat and ball.
The former Pakistan Test player has picked up vital wickets and shone with the willow when smashing a belligerent 77 from 47 balls in the 21-run win in front of a 17,000 crowd against Chris Gayle’s side, the Barisal Burners.
In praising his Kent and Dhaka team-mate, Stevens said: “Azhar was brought up on Pakistan wickets, which he tells me are very similar to these wickets out here in Bangladesh.
“He admits he struggled a bit in the first couple of games, but he’s flying now and we’re all keeping our fingers crossed that his body holds up and he lasts the rest of the tournament.”
Stevens has also forged a solid bond with big-hitting West Indies’ all-rounder, Kieron Pollard. The pair have already enjoyed two vital match-winning partnerships together, and Stevens is hoping for more.
“Polly is a great man,” he added. “We’ve had a couple of good partnerships so far and it seems we’re very similar at the crease. We’re both very calm under pressure, I think, though he’s probably a lot cooler. After all, he’s from Trinidad and I’m from Hinckley!
“I must admit I’m actually quite scared batting with him. I feel it’s just a matter of time before he hits one back at me at the non-striker’s end and cleans me up! I don’t think the big man plays golf, but if he did I’m not sure there is a big enough golf course around to cope with him.
“Seriously, though, he is one of the world’s best Twenty20 players and gives a side everything you could ask for. His batting speaks for itself, he’s an athlete in the field and he has a good mix with the ball. To finish it off, he is brilliant in and around the changing room too.
“The good news is that he’s free to stay with us until the end of the tournament now, which really improves our chances of going through.”
As for the remainder of Dhaka’s round-robin games, Stevens added: “I think we need at least five wins to go through. We’ve got a good enough side to qualify and potentially win the competition, but in this format you just never know.”