The cricket carnival known as the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) will swing into its final stretch today with all eyes on pre-tournament favourites Dhaka Dynamites, who take on Comilla Victorians in their bid to overtake Rajshahi Kings and snatch the last available playoff place. Some eyes will also be on the wicket at the centre of the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur as the sixth edition of the BPL is coming off its most exciting leg in Chattogram where high totals became a matter of course.
The day's second match will see Chittagong Vikings -- who have already qualified along with Comilla and top-placed Rangpur Riders -- taking on Sylhet Sixers, whose loss against Rajshahi in the last match in Chattogram on Wednesday meant that they were booted from the playoff race. Mushfiqur Rahim's Vikings -- two points behind Comilla and Rangpur -- will be looking to win their last group game and possibly qualify as one of the top two teams, which present the opportunity to reach the final after winning just one playoff game.
Dhaka have two games left and are still two points behind Rajshahi, who are done with their group games. With a markedly superior run rate, just the one win may see Dhaka go through and skipper Shakib Al Hasan may be banking on the Mirpur surface's sluggish nature to give minimal fuel to Comilla's batting mainstays like Evin Lewis, Tamim Iqbal and Thisara Perera. Shakib's left-arm spin will be crucial in that regard and he will also be counting on openers Hazratullah Zazai and Sunil Narine to punish the new ball, before the West Indian pair of Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard do what they do best lower down the order.
With the tournament nearing its climax, it is somewhat anticlimactic that some of its brightest stars will be leaving, with leaders Rangpur being the main losers. Alex Hales hit a century in Chattogram, but he ended that leg by sustaining an injury while batting against Rajshahi on Tuesday and will fly back to England tonight. South African legend AB de Villiers will also be leaving after tomorrow's match against Comilla, having fulfilled his six-match commitment.
"He [Hales] hurt his left shoulder in the last game while batting and the English board have requested that he return to get some further advice from specialists in London and get an MRI scan. Unfortunately, that's the end of his tournament with us. He's had a significant impact but we have the resources within the squad to make the necessary adjustments in the top order," Rangpur coach Tom Moody told reporters during practice in Mirpur yesterday.