DHAKA: The Titans and Riders will fight for their survival today (Friday) in first fixture of the Bangladesh Premier League at the Sher-e-Bangla National stadium in Mirpur.
There is no more room for mistakes or second chances. Losing this game means goodbye. These are the thoughts that will play on the back of the minds for both Khulna Titans and Rangpur Riders in the eliminator.
Despite having big names in either side, the focus will remain on the captains, both of whom who have lifted the morale of the side by leading from the front throughout the tournament.
The Titans are probably the only team this season whose local talents paid huge dividends, from Ariful Haque’s ability to score quick runs in crucial moments to the season’s top wicket-taker, pacer Abu Jayed with 18 scalps.
But it’s captain cool Mahmudullah Riyad who will have to guide the youngsters in pressure situations, which he has done often in the past few seasons while the Titans will also look yet again to West Indian six specialist Carlos Brathwaite, who has a strike rate of 178.57 and has hit 18 sixes so far, changing the complexion of the game late in the innings on several occasions.
On the other hand there is the other captain — the inspiration, motivator and game-changer named Mashrafe Bin Mortaza who has helped Rangpur stage a dramatic turnaround after a disappointing start to the tournament. He has done the job at times with the bat and also with the ball and of course with his firm presence on the field.
But the Riders would definitely want their two explosive batsmen in opener Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum to fire, which so far has not happened simultaneously to the extent everyone knows they can.
Sri Lanka pacer Lasith Malinga is also not at his best, but the only consistent foreigner in the side, Englishman Ravi Bopara, will certainly have an impact on the big game.
When it comes to the locals Rangpur do have handy spinners like Sohag Gazi who can play a crucial role with his off-spin along with left-arm spinner Nazmul Islam.
The league head-to-head between the two sides is locked at one each, making today’s knockout all the more interesting as a decider of sorts between the third and fourth placed sides.
But apart from all the equations, it’s the pitch at the Sher-e-Bangla National stadium in Mirpur that has offered less pace, uneven bounce and low-scoring affairs, which has been the centre of discussion since the tournament shifted to Dhaka for the final stretch. Fingers will be crossed all around for a better surface worthy of the business end of the tournament.
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
Khulna Titans (probable): 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
Story first published: 8th December 2017