Khulna Titans will face Rangpur Riders in a high-voltage encounter in the first match of the Chittagong phase of the BPL 2017 at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Cricket Stadium Friday.
Khulna are sitting third in the points table at the moment, earning nine points from seven matches. They won four games, lost two while one game was abandoned due to inclement weather as the points were shared.
Their next game against Rangpur will be tough as the Riders’ top order is destructive to say the least, boasting the likes of the West Indies’ Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum of New Zealand. Khulna in contrast, have a strong opening bowling attack as right-arm pacer Abu Jayed has taken 12 wickets in six innings. The Titans’ Pakistan recruit Junaid Khan is also in good touch. The left-arm pacer was the second highest wicket-taker in the BPL last year and started from where he had left off this season, so it is expected to be an intense contest.
“Points table looks pretty much interesting right now. I think every match is important. We have a plan to take each game as it comes. Every team is strong in the tournament,” Mahmudullah told the media at ZACCS Thursday after their practice session.
“Rangpur are a very good team. They are playing good cricket. And we have to play good cricket as well to beat them. They have some big players in their squad. We have to play our best cricket against them,” he said.
The decision to include five overseas players in the playing XI has paved the way for much discussion as talks were circling around as to whether the local cricketers’ prospects have been harmed in the process. But Mahmudullah believes this is a different challenge for the locals and said they will be better off for the experience.
“I think playing against five foreign players is a good challenge. As a cricketer, facing challenge is one of our tasks. We are facing a different challenge as we have to fight for our place in the playing XI against five overseas players. But at the same point, performance from local player is also important. I think most of our local players are coming to their form at this stage of the tournament which is good for our cricket,” said the Bangladesh all-rounder.
The Khulna camp is confident at the moment as they snatched a thrilling win in their last match, against Rajshahi Kings, riding on batsman Ariful Haque’s stunning match-winning 19-ball 43-run knock Tuesday at Mirpur Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka. Mahmudullah gave full credit to Ariful for his brilliant innings and hoped that the in-form right-hander will continue his scoring touch for the Titans.
“It’s good for our team. A batsman like Ariful in the lower order gives Khulna batting line up an extra edge. I always believe that Ariful is a match winner. He proved it in the last game. I hope he will continue his good form,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rangpur also staged a stunning comeback, snatching a win in their previous two matches against Sylhet Sixers and holder Dhaka Dynamites respectively. Rangpur pacer Rubel Hossain admitted Friday's match against Khulna is another crunch tie for them and that they are desperate to maintain their winning momentum.
“We needed that win badly. We were on the backfoot after losing three games in a row. Alhamdulillah we came back strongly. Everyone had to perform to win such type of close matches. Everyone bowled well. Particularly Thisara Perera bowled brilliantly in the last over,” Rubel said to the media.
“We are not thinking that far ahead. We are planning match by match. [Friday's] match against Khulna is very important for us. We will play to win in every game from now on. We don’t want to concentrate on the points table. We just need to focus match by match,” he added.
Khulna Titans v Rangpur Riders, 2pm
Chittagong Vikings v Sylhet Sixers, 7pm
Both the games will be held at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Cricket Stadium in Chittagong