A cracker of a match seems to be on the cards with defending champions Rangpur Riders taking on Dhaka Dynamites in the second qualifier of the sixth edition of the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) today at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium today with a place in Friday's final at stake.
There was no dearth of entertainment when Rangpur, led by Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, took on Shakib Al Hasan's Dhaka in two league games as both witnessed plenty of exciting action and some records being registered.
Dhaka's mystery off-spinner Aliss Al Islam surprised the world as he became the first player ever in T20 history to bag a hattrick on debut in the sides' first meeting -- a high-scoring one in which Dhaka edged a narrow two-run victory.
The next time, however, it was Rangpur who won another high-scoring duel comfortably by eight-wickets, courtesy of an unbeaten 184-run third-wicket partnership between Alex Hales and AB de Villiers -- the highest partnership for the wicket in BPL. While de Villiers, hailed as Mr. 360, entertained the crowd with a 50-ball 100, opener Hales partnered him well throughout with a 53-ball 85.
However, none of the players who lit up the previous two contests will be featuring in today's all-important qualifier. Rangpur will be without Hales and de Villers as the former has returned to England because of an injury during their league encounter with Rajshahi Kings, while the latters had already completed his six-match commitment at the end of the league phase.
Aliss could also not recover from an injury he suffered during his side's league encounter with Sylhet Sixers and Dhaka coach Khaled Mahmud dismissed any possibilities of the 22-year-old's return for the big game while talking to reporters yesterday.
A thriller can still be expected today as Rangpur have players like Rilee Rossouw, Chris Gayle and Benny Howell and skipper Mashrafe while Dhaka boast the likes of Shakib, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and Sunil Narine, all of whom could change the complexion of a game at any moment.
Dhaka coach Mahmud however felt that Rangpur will be on the back foot today as they will be without the likes of Hales and de Villiers, but was still confident that there would be an exciting game of cricket today.
“Obviously, it is a matter of relief. AB is a dangerous cricketer and I don't need to say anything about Hales. But AB de Villiers is a fantastic cricketer. The way he played in BPL, to be honest it was magnificent. Again, Hales also batted brilliantly for them. So not having them will definitely put Rangpur on the back foot and this will also boost confidence in our team. Still, cricket is a funny game and if we look at how brilliantly [Benny] Howell batted in the last game. And a team under Mashrafe's captaincy cannot be neglected. We also have a balanced side. So I think it will be a cracking contest.”