Rangpur riding high
Mashrafe Bin Mortaza's Rangpur Riders look to have hit top gear when it matters most, confirming first place in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) with a whopping nine-wicket victory over Comilla Victorians in their last league match at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium yesterday.
Rangpur's climb to the summit was quite unexpected as they had started the tournament with just two wins from their first six games before exploding into life with six straight wins and skipper Mashrafe hailed his team's turnaround when speaking at the post-match press conference yesterday.
"We were really in a bad position at one point, winning just two matches out of six. We were in a situation where we were not sure if we could even make it to the semifinals. I think to come from that position to here is a very positive and good thing for the team. But still I think the matches ahead are very important," Mashrafe said.
Mashrafe and Co. dominated yesterday's game from the word go as they bundled out Comilla for a meagre 72 runs -- their second lowest total in BPL history -- after Comilla had elected to bat. Ziaur Rahman added crucial 21 runs to help Comilla avert the humiliation of being bundled out for their lowest-ever BPL total before falling prey to all-rounder Ravi Bopara. On a day that saw Rangpur bowlers dictate terms, Bopara was the pick of the bunch, ending with figures of three wickets for just seven runs in three overs.
Interestingly, Comilla's lowest-ever total in the history of this tournament -- 63 all out in 16.2 overs -- was also recorded in this edition of the BPL against the same opposition. Rangpur also won that game by the same margin when the two sides had met early on in the tournament at the same venue.
After the exchange, Rangpur batsmen Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers remained unbeaten for 35 and 34 runs respectively and wrapped up the chase in just 9.3 overs.
Although both Comilla and Rangpur went into the match yesterday having already confirmed their spot in the last four, the massive win will surely give Rangpur a momentum boost going into a Qualifier against the same opponents tomorrow.
However, Rangpur will be missing the likes of Alex Hales and de Villiers. The former has already returned to England after suffering an injury against Rajshahi Kings while de Villiers will be unavailable as yesterday's was the final of his six-match commitment.
Mashrafe, however, said that they were prepared for such events.
"I think Gayle and de Villiers are different from others, especially in this format. Hales was also in form but he will be leaving. About de Villiers, we knew that he would leave after playing six matches, so we were mentally prepared. And the thing is that in this type of tournament, such things happen. Anyone could have been injured."
SCORES IN BRIEF
COMILLA VICTORIANS v RANGPUR RIDERS
Comilla: 72 all out in 16.3 overs (Ziaur 21, Dawson 18; Bopara 3-7, Nahidul 2-9, Mashrafe 2-18)
RANGPUR: 76 for 1 in 9.3 overs (Gayle 35 not out, de Villiers 34 not out, Mahedi 5; Sanjit 1-32, Hider 0-11)
Result: Rangpur won by 9 wickets.
Player-of-the-match: Ravi Bopara.