Mashrafe Mortaza exults after Rangpur’s last-over win © Raton Gomes/BCB
The first knockout game in this year’s BPL brings with it two questions. Will Rangpur Riders’ star players stand up? And will Khulna Titans’ idea of banking on their young talent pay off?
Led by Mahmudullah, with several other upcoming Bangladesh players in the mix, Khulna earned a third-place finish at the end of the league stage. Carlos Brathwaite, their biggest overseas purchase, has been unparalleled in hitting power and has also sniped out crucial wickets with his medium-pacers. Jofra Archer, the 22-year old fast bowler from Barbados, has been a revelation as well while Abu Jayed, Ariful Haque and Nazmul Hossain Shanto, too, have chipped in with handy performances. Khulna have been especially effective in the last five overs, whether it was Brathwaite and Ariful conjuring sixes out of thin air – they hit six in 16 deliveries against Chittagong Vikings – or Archer and Shafiul unsettling the opposition with accurate yorkers.
Rangpur, meanwhile, would be expecting a big knock from Chris Gayle and/or Brendon McCullum having waited the entire tournament for one. Ravi Bopara has been a steady source of runs though and they have a proven performer in Lasith Malinga to lead the bowling attack. Sohag Gazi‘s offspin can be useful as well, and their captain Mashrafe Mortaza has been excellent with both bat and all.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Rangpur Riders: LWLWW
Khulna Titans: WLLWW
In the spotlight
In 11 innings in his first BPL, Brathwaite boasts a strike-rate of 178.57 and has 18 sixes to his name. He has also picked up five wickets, but it is his end-overs brutality that has steered Khulna to victory on several occasions. A similar show in the knockout game could propel his side closer to the title.
Among all their superstars, Mashrafe has stood out with his effective bowling (13 wickets), big-hitting (152.32 strike-rate) – and albeit its being sporadic – safe fielding. He is also known for his no-nonsense leadership and likes to take responsibility when a big game goes down to the wire.
Rangpur are not short of firepower in the top order, but the middle doesn’t look quite as threatening. They will hope contributions from Mashrafe and Gazi can paper over that issue.
Rangpur Riders (probable): 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Ziaur Rahman, 3 Brendon McCullum, 4 Mohammad Mithun (wk), 5 Ravi Bopara, 6 Nahidul Islam, 7 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 8 Sohag Gazi, 9 Nazmul Islam, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Isuru Udana
Junaid Khan’s injury was a big blow but Khulna still have enough firepower in their pace attack to keep Rangpur in check.
Khulna Titans: 1 Michael Klinger, 2 Nazmul Hossain Shanto, 3 Afif Hossain, 4 Mahmudullah, 5 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 6 Ariful Haque, 7 Carlos Brathwaite, 8 Jofra Archer, 9 Mohammad Irfan, 10 Shafiul Islam, 11 Abu Jayed
Pitch and conditions
The Mirpur pitches have been roundly criticised since the tournament moved back to Dhaka from Chittagong, and it is likely to remain two-paced. The weather is set fair on Friday.
Stats and trivia
- Jayed may be Khulna’s highest wicket-taker with 18 this season but, among bowlers who’ve bowled six overs or more, he also has the worst economy-rate (9.05).
- The Gayle-McCullum opening combination for Rangpur was touted to be the highlight of the BPL. However, having failed to make an impact in five innings, they were separated. Gayle and Ziaur Rahman have opened thrice thereafter, never lasting more than 2.3 overs.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo