Khulna Tigers-Sylhet Thunder re-match set to be a tasty affair in Dhaka!
Khulna Tigers to win!
It would be exactly week gone by since Khulna Tigers locked horns with Sylhet Thunder in Chattogram when the two teams take the field once again in Dhaka on Saturday. Even though Sylhet ended up on the better side on that occasion, their opponents are coming into this fixture with a lot of confidence. Even though problems seemed to be mounting after two losses, Khulna Tigers showed why they managed to win all their first three games.
Unlike those matches, Khulna's confidence-boosting win was set up by two key middle-order Batsmen. With Rilee Rossouw departing early after a rare failure, skipper Mushfiqur Rahim and new face Najibullah Zadran took their time before exploding in the final few overs. Rahim's fifty run-knock along with Zadran's 41-run knock helped Khulna post an imposing 182-7. With a big total acting as luxury, Khulna's bowlers struck at regular intervals as Rangpur failed to stitch even one worthy partnership.
Medium-pacer Shahidul Islam was the pick of the bowlers with four wickets while Mohammad Amir, Robbie Frylinck and Shafiul Islam were also impressive. It was the exact opposite for Sylhet Thunder as their bowlers couldn’t defend a healthy total in their last fixture against Dhaka Platoon. After scoring 174-4 with help from the trio of Johnson Charles, Mohammad Mithun and Sherfane Rutherford, Sylhet's bowling lacked firepower and this meant that Dhaka raced home with nine balls to spare. This turned out to be a very disappointing performance especially after putting in an all-round effort against Khulna Tigers a week ago.
In that match, the West Indian duo of Andre Fletcher and Johnson Charles were absolutely unstoppable as Sylhet posted a daunting 232-5 on the board. From there on, Sylhet didn’t look back at all with Krishmar Santokie starring with three wickets while Monir Hossain and Ebadot Hossain also contributed with two scalps each. This helped Sylhet to register a very impressive 80-run win.
With the kind of rollicking that Khulna Tigers had, no one expected them to slip up. But they did twice once against Sylhet and in the next match against Rajshahi Royals too. The two defeats were caused by two different issues. While the bowling unit let down the team against Sylhet, the Batsmen failed to post a good enough total against Rajshahi. It could have easily started to unravel badly for Khulna but the team's quality eventually shone through once again with a superb performance against Rangpur Rangers on Friday night.
The biggest positive out of the match would have been the fact that the talented yet underperforming Nazmul Hossain Shanto finally clicked with a 30-run knock at the top of the order. Skipper Mushfiqur Rahim also impressed with his fifty after enduring a couple of failures. Although key batsman Rilee Rossouw failed against Rangpur, Khulna wouldn’t fret at all as he has shown his quality in abundance throught the last one and a half seasons.
Apart from these batters, Afghan player Najibullah Zadran also impressed in his maiden appearance to add some quality and experience to the team's middle-order. The bowlers also stepped up with Mohammad Amir and Robbie Frylinck coming up with early blows, something that has been missing for the otherwise strong Khulna outfit. However, Khulna might still want some more wickets from the likes of Shafiul Islam, Mehidy Hasan and even Amir as only Shahidul Islam has touched double figures in the team's bowling chart.
Nazmul Hossain Shanto, Mehidy Hasan, Rilee Rossouw, Mushfiqur Rahim (C & WK), Shamsur Rahman, Najibullah Zadran, Robbie Frylinck, Shahidul Islam, Mohammad Amir, Tanvir Islam, Shafiul Islam.
RR Rossouw, Tanvir Islam, Shafiul Islam, Mohammad Amir, Shahidul Islam, Nazmul Hossain, Mehidy Hasan, Robbie Frylinck, Shamsur Rahman, Mushfiqur Rahim, N Zadran
In the initial phase of the season, everything seemed to be going wrong for Sylhet Thunder. The batsmen failed to convert starts while the bowlers lacked penetration. While the first problem has been solved to a large extent with the Sylhet batsmen scoring consistently, the bowling still looms large as a major weakness. Even after scoring 172 runs in the first inning, Sylhet was unable to defend it as none of the bowlers managed to threaten Dhaka Platoon's batsmen.
Overall, in the tournament itself, Sylhet's highest wicket-takers have been Krishmar Santokie and Ebadot Hossain with seven and six scalps respectively. Apart from them, none of the other Sylhet bowlers have picked up more than three wickets while being expensive at the same time. This is why Sylhet's chances of winning games solely depend on the performance of their bowlers.
Like mentioned earlier, the team has quite a few dependable batters now. Johnson Charles, in particular, has been really impressed with 236 runs in six matches. He has found support from the likes of Andre Fletcher, Mohammad Mithun and Mosaddek Hossain too. Even newcomer Sherfane Rutherford made an immediate impression by applying finish touch to Sylhet's batting effort against Dhaka Platoon.
Andre Fletcher, Abdul Mazid, Johnson Charles, Mohammad Mithun (WK), Mosaddek Hossain (C), Sherfane Rutherford, Nazmul Hossain Milon, Sohag Gazi, Krishmar Santokie, Ebadot Hossain, Nazmul Islam
Ebadat Hossain, Mosaddek Hossain, Delwar Hossain, Nayeem Hasan, Krishmar Santokie, Nazmul Islam, Sherfane Rutherford, Mohammad Mithun, Rubel Mia, J Charles, ADS Fletcher
Although the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka won’t provide amazing batting surfaces like the ones seen at Chattogram, the famous ground has produced balanced pitches when compared to the previous season. Batsmen have found it easy to score while the likes of Mohammad Nabi and Ryan Burl have also got decent purchase off the pitches. In terms of the weather, Saturday is expected to have hazy skies with no threat of rain interrupted the match.
The SBN Stadium in Dhaka has always been known for producing spin-friendly wickets but it is the pace bowling duo of Mehedi Hasan Rana and Andre Russell who lead the bowling charts as of now. However, the likes of Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Soumya Sarkar, Ravi Bopara and Lewis Gregory are not far behind and this shows that the pitches might be starting to provide more grip and turn for the slower bowlers.
With dew always capable of playing a part in night-matches, it would be only wise to bowl first so that the spinners could take advantage of the pitch when it is possible to grip the ball properly. Dew will also make it rather easy for the chasing team as the ball will skid on in the second innings.
Even though Sylhet Thunder managed to cause an upset in Chattogram, Khulna Tigers still go into this match as the slight favorite. It all depends on which team's batting firepower dethrones the other as Khulna seems to have a better bowling attack.
The toss could also be a vital aspect as Sylhet's leading bowler Krishmar Santokie depends on his variations in order to pick wickets. If Sylhet has to bowl second, Santokie might not be at his wicket-taking best.
Khulna Tigers to win!