When Russell came into the crease, Rajshahi Royals still required 84 off 40 deliveries to win against Chattogram Challengers to reach the final of the BPL. And he left the pitch with a final spot in the bag.
Andre Russell was out of touch the whole tournament as the carnage he was known for was missing from the ongoing Bangabandhu Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) T20 2019-20.
But cometh the hour, cometh the man.
When Russell came into the crease, Rajshahi Royals still required 84 off 40 deliveries to win against Chattogram Challengers to reach the final of the BPL.
And when he left the pitch with four deliveries to go, Russell was unbeaten on 54 off 22 deliveries, guiding Rajshahi to a final spot which at one point, looked impossible for them.
Chattogram Challengers must be kicking themselves though. They were 111-3 at the end of the 10th over, but still only managed to reach 164-9 and it looked easy for Rajshahi to chase down. But it wasn't.
Chasing 165, Rajshahi's ship was shaken straight away. Rubel Hossain sent Afif Hossain back for 2 before Liton Das suicided trying to steal a quick single. Liton pushed a Mehedi Hasan Rana delivery back to the bowler and tried to take a run, but Rana reached the ball and hit the stumps with pinpoint accuracy to send Liton back.
Alok Kapali was the next to go as he tried to slog Mahmudullah but only found Rayad Emrit at the boundary as Rajshahi finished their powerplay on 40.
Irfan Shukkur then put on a steady stand with Shoaib Malik but the asking rate kept creeping up before Irfan was judged out LBW off Rubel. But the batsman reviewed and replays showed that the ball pitched outside leg and Irfan survived.
Runs became scarce for the batsmen as they found it tough to score runs and the asking rate kept rising. Maik particularly found it tough as he was dismissed for 14 off 22 deliveries by Ziaur Rahman in the 14th over.
Irfan Shukkur was finally gone in the 15th over as the batsman tried to hoick Rana but only found Chadwick Walton at the boundary, ending a hard-fought innings of 45.
Rajshahi needed 76 from the last five overs which looked pretty impossible but Russell and Mohammad Nawaz made it look possible as they reduced it to 49 off 23 deliveries before Imrul Kayes took a brilliant catch to send Nawaz back for 14 off 5 balls. Coming in next, Farhad Reza hit a six but was sent packing the very next delivery as Emrit picked up his second wicket off the over.
Russell kept Rajshahi in the game but wickets fell at the other end as Kamrul Islam Rabbi was the next to bite the dust as he went back for a golden duck. Rubel only gave away a six in the 18th over as Rajshahi still required 31 off the last two overs.
Russell and Abu Jayed Rahi took 23 in the 19th over off Rana to bring down the equation to 8 from the last over.
Asela Gunaratne came into bowl the last over, the first ball was a dot and so was the second. The next was a wide and Gunaratne bowled a no-ball in the next as Russell hit that ball out of the park to ensure a win for them.
Earlier, winning the toss, Rajshahi skipper Andre Russell decided to field first as they brought in Irfan Shukkur and Mohammad Nawaz to replace Taijul Islam and Ravi Bopara.
Chattogram were off to a slow start as they needed eight deliveries to kick off their score, but soon they caught up as Chris Gayle started to wreak havoc. But Chattogram lost a couple of wickets at the other end as Ziaur Rahman and Imrul Kayes were sent back by Mohammad Irfan and Russell respectively.
Chattogram could have been in even more trouble as Russell trapped their skipper Mahmudullah Riyad LBW but he reviewed and replays showed that the ball was missing the stumps.
Despite all the chaos at the other end, Gayle stayed untroubled as he continued his storm to pick up his fifty off just 21 balls and his stand with Mahmudullah reached fifty within just 24 deliveries.
But from there on, what started was a procession of batsmen as Afif Hossain despite going for 20 runs in an over, managed to rattle Gayle's stumps to send back the Caribbean for 60.
Nawaz was the next to cause fatality for portsiders as he struck twice to send back Mahmudullah and Nurul Hasan Sohan in the 11th over before Liton Das took a brilliant catch to send back Chadwick Walton off Alok Kapali.
Rayad Emrit was the next to go as he was run out for 3 and Asela Gunaratne after holding one end, inside-edged an Irfan delivery in the 19th over to go back for 31.
Chattogram managed to lose another wicket in the last over, taking five runs to reach 164-9.
Chattogram Challengers: 164-9 (Gayle 60, Mahmudullah 33, Gunaratne 31, Nawaz 2-13, Irfan 2-16, Kapali 1-19)
Rajshahi Royals: 165-8 (Russell 54*, Irfan Shukkur 45, Nawaz 14, Rubel 2-34, Emrit 2-41, Mahmudullah 1-10)