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In the first of two matches between the two teams in this final phase of league fixtures, taking place at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka, the top two teams in the Bangladesh Premier League go head-to-head.
Chattogram Challengers and Rajshahi Royals both have 14 points so far and their two matches against each other are their final matches of the league stage of this year’s BPL. The first meeting takes place on January 7.
Both teams have already sealed play-off places, but top spot in the table is still up for grabs. Whichever team wins this match will put themselves in pole position for a place in the first qualifier – guaranteeing two shots at reaching the final.
Top run-scorer and captain Imrul Kayes returned to the team last time out and batted patiently in a dominant win against Khulna Tigers. He has now scored 319 runs in the tournament in nine innings and averages over 50.
Kayes’ return, alongside the continued availability (and form) of Lendl Simmons at the top of the order, will be key to their hopes of success. Considering Avishka Fernando left for international duty, Mahmudullah has only been fit for three matches and Chris Gayle has not featured at all, Chattogram have a strong batting line-up.
Mahmudullah is expected to return for these final two matches too, bolstering the strength of that middle order and joining Kayes, Simmons and Chadwick Walton as prominent batsmen.
Chattogram also have some in-form bowlers too. Mehedi Hasan Rana took another three wickets last time out, and he now has 17 in eight matches – leading the BPL 2019-20 wicket-taking charts.
Rubel Hossain, meanwhile, also took three in the win against Khulna Tigers. He has 13 in total and Chattogram Challengers have an excellent, well-balanced line-up.
Rubel Hossain, KOK Williams, CAK Walton, Nurul Hasan, LMP Simmons, Imrul Kayes, Chris Gayle, Muktar Ali, Mahmudullah, Ziaur Rahman, Nasum Ahmed.
The same can be said of Rajshahi Royals, particular if Andre Russell is fit to return for this final phase of fixtures. The West Indian all-rounder has missed the last two matches after only managing to bowl three balls in the game prior to them. Yet he still leads the Royals’ wicket-taking charts and averages 61 with the bat at a strike rate of 179.41.
Rajshahi, like Chattogram, have won seven of their ten games so far but two of those victories came in their last two matches as they look to rebuild some momentum. Captain Shoaib Malik and another key overseas all-rounder, Ravi Bopara, have been key to this form.
Mohammad Irfan has been more economical with the ball in recent matches, and Mohammad Nawaz – who will play if Russell misses out – has made his mark with bat and ball too.
The Royals have good strength in depth, and you can add opening batsmen Liton Das and Afif Hossain to their list of key players too.
Victory last time out was against struggling Sylhet Thunder, but they beat them as dominantly as you would expect – taking just 15.1 overs to reach their winning score of 145/4.
Liton Das, Shoaib Malik, Afif Hossain, Alok Kapali, I Sukkur, Andre Russell, RS Bopara, Mohammad Irfan, Taijul Islam, Kamrul Islam, Farhad Reza.
Rajshahi Royals lost the toss in both matches they played in Sylhet so they are due to win the toss this time. The norm in Dhaka is to field first, and so the Royals – if their fortune at the coin toss does change – will hope to have as much success chasing as they did in their most recent game, the win against Sylhet Thunder.
Read our guide on toss predictions to learn how we analyze and come up with our tips.
Dhaka has produced a mixed bag in its first two phases of fixtures in this year’s Bangladesh Premier League programme. The tournament is now back for the final run-in, and the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium is likely to turn once more but also offer something to the batsmen.
Pace bowling proved Rajshahi’s downfall in their two most recent matches in Dhaka, meanwhile, to prove there is pace in the wicket for the fast met to exploit too.
The weather will not be a factor, however – clear skies, sunny conditions and temperatures in the high teens throughout the evening should make for perfect conditions, even though the humidity will ramp up.
There is very little to separate these two teams – they are level on points at the right end of the table and both have displayed an impressive strength in depth so far. Rajshahi Royals have won each of their last two games, however – starting and ending the Sylhet phase of fixtures with a win – and that momentum could swing it their way, especially if Andre Russell returns from injury too.
Bet on Rajshahi Royals to win.
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