The Sylhet phase was expected to induce more excitement in the ongoing Bangabandhu Bangladesh Premier League (BBPL) with more power-hitting on the menu to entertain a larger turnout of fans compared to the Dhaka phase matches.
The first match of the Sylhet leg, between Rajshahi Royals and Rangpur Rangers, did not quite meet expectations with Ravi Bopara later reiterating that it was a difficult pitch to bat on while the turnout was low. There were still a few moments that cheered the crowd in the day game at the Sylhet International Cricket Stadium yesterday.
First, it was the Rajshahi opening pair of Afif Hossain and Liton Das who blazed Rajshahi Royals to a fast start before Bopara’s unbeaten fifty lifted Rajshahi to a strong 179 for four. In the middle, Shoaib Malik played an important role to set up the 30-run win as Rajshahi restricted Rangpur to 149 for seven, picking up their sixth win in the tournament to take top spot in the seven-team table.
Afif got into his aggressive mould, dominating early on and for some time Liton looked good as well before he once again departed after a bright start, edging a Mustafizur Rahman delivery to the wicket-keeper. Afif followed his opening partner next over, with Mohammad Nabi getting his scalp. Malik came in to steady the innings along with Bopara.
While Malik was removed by Mustafizur, Bopara took charge and picked up the tempo at the end, hitting three consecutive fours in the final over from Mustafizur to remain unbeaten on a 29-ball 50.
Mohammad Naim threatened to cut loose after the exchange but after he was removed by Malik, the innings slowly withered away in chase of 180, despite a 64-run stand for the fourth wicket between Tom Abell and Fazle Mahmud.
Bopara commended the effort of Malik during a crucial period on what he considered a difficult wicket.
“Some balls were stopping and some were skidding. It was a very difficult pitch to bat on for your first 10 balls. You have to get yourself set and catch up at the back end, but sometimes that can go wrong as well. It was one of those days and I think Shoaib Malik played fantastically to put the innings together and I kept the pressure up,” he said at the post-match press conference.
Bopara applauded the strong start from Afif and Liton -- 51 runs coming inside five overs -- which allowed him to take his time and explode late.
“If you look at the partnerships they have built, they get to 40-50 runs in the Powerplay and generally we go on to win those games.”
He was of the opinion that getting runs in Fizz’s last over changed the game.
“We needed a big over at the end and we managed it. It does help the cause if you take the momentum into the second innings so it was a good over,” he said.
SCORES IN BRIEF
RAJSHAHI ROYALS: 179 for 4 in 20 overs (Afif 32, Shoaib 37, Irfan 20, Bopara 50 not out; Mustafizur 2-41)
RANGPUR RANGERS: 149 for 7 in 20 overs (Naim 27, Abell 29, Fazle 34; Nawaz 2-21, Shoaib 2-27, Kamrul 2-32)
Result: Rajshahi won by 30 runs.
Player-of-the-match: Ravi Bopara.