CATCHES CAN WIN MATCHES: An airborne Barisal batsman Rokibul Hasan plucks the ball in thin air during his side's training session at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium yesterday. Barisal will meet hosts Dhaka in their third round National League match, starting here today.Photo: STAR
Leaders Raj-shahi will play their first away match against struggling Chittagong while Dhaka face Barisal in their second home match of the National Cricket League today.
Second-placed Khulna will look to register their first win when they travel to lightweight Sylhet's home ground for the season at the Fatullah Cricket Stadium on the outskirt of Dhaka.
Bangladesh Television will telecast the match between Dhaka and Barisal, which starts at 9.30 am, live from the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium.
Rajshahi, who won both their home matches against Sylhet and Barisal, amassed 30 points including 14 bonus points. Their inspirational captain Khaled Mashud scored 82 and 89 in the first two games, and will be looking for some more runs as they take on the challenge of Chittagong, who are having a rough time.
Placed fifth, Chittagong have a lot to play for as they have gathered only 13 points, much of which came from their drawn encounter against Khulna in the last leg. It was a spirited effort as the batsmen got their acts together in the second innings after failure in the first.
Their opener Tamim Iqbal is one of two centurions so far but runs are due from captain Ehsanul Haque, who scored 735 runs during last season's NCL but has been timid so far.
In Dhaka, the hosts have their captain back. Mohammad Ashraful, who led Bangladesh to the Hong Kong Sixes last week, and all-rounder Mahmudullah Riyad will give the defending champions the much needed boost. Dhaka, who won emphatically against Sylhet by an innings and 34 runs, are in third place with 21, two points behind Khulna.
Dhaka might ponder their batting and spin option. With Mohammad Rafique not giving enough support with the ball, the management might be tempted to bring in Riyad in place of the wily left-armer, with Mehrab Hossain as bowling cover.
But given Rafique's pedigree, Dhaka could easily swap Shamsur Rahman and Marshall Ayub for Ashraful and Riyad.
Dhaka's opponents Barisal are likely to make a few batting changes if they want a better show than their woeful outing against Rajshahi. They would also be hoping for some runs from captain Shahriar Nafees and his opening partner Hannan Sarkar, and maybe a solid partnership from the two.
But Barisal can count on their other opening partnership, that of Sajidul Islam and Talha Jubair. Both bowlers have shown good early promise, especially the little known Sajid, who contributes regularly with the bat too.
Sylhet, on a paltry seven points, are desperate to put up a good performance against Khulna. The hosts (this time at Fatullah) decided to drop national wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim for lack of runs in the last limited-overs match. In four first-class innings, Rahim has scored 96 runs and only had six dismissals behind the stumps.
Regarded as the better batsmen of all the 'keepers in the country, Rahim has not made any big claims with the bat lately. Khulna's stumper Sahagir Hossain boasts a better batting tally (109 runs) than Rahim so far.
Khulna can take advantage of Sylhet's indecision behind the stumps, as the one-day high-flyers would be itching to post their first outright victory. Khulna's problems have usually come in the second innings. They easily take a big lead but on both occasions (against Dhaka and Chittagong), they failed to give themselves enough time to bowl out opponents. With big names such as Mashrafe Bin Mortaza and Habibul Bashar and runs coming from Shakib Al Hasan, they now have a huge opportunity to move ahead.