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The moment everyone was so keenly waiting for has finally arrived. We are into the playoffs in the Bangladesh Premier League with Khulna Tigers, Rajshahi Royals, Chattogram Challengers, and Dhaka Platoons finally making it to the top-four. The league stage witnessed a tense finish three teams tied for the top slot with only net run-rate separating them. The first qualifier of the tournament is to be played at Shere Bangla National Cricket Stadium, on 13th January between Khulna Tigers and Rajshahi Royals. Both the sides did exceedingly well in the league stage of the tournament and occupied the top two slots on the ladder. Considering how well-fought was the fag end of the tournament, a cracking contest is certainly on the cards on Monday.
With three back to back wins in their last three league-stage encounters, Khulna Tigers seem to be peaking just at the right moment. The finished with 16 points to their name, earned on the back of eight wins. Additionally, they had a net run-rate of 0.912 at the end of league stage.
Khulna Tigers were the best batting in the tournament and that is evident by the fact that the top two run scorers in the tournament are from the Tigers' camp. With 458 runs to his name, Rilee Rossouw will be looking to be the highest run-scorer of the tournament for second time in a row. Right behind him is Mushfiqur Rahim, with 449 runs to his name, and he has been consistently winning them games as well.
Against the Platoons, in the last league match, the Tigers timed their chase to perfection as they embarrased Platoons' bowling attack by chasing a total of 207 runs with significant ease. The positive the Tigers will draw from their win is that they won the match without significant contribution from either of Rilee Rossouw or Mushfiqur Rahim.
Najmul Hossain Shanto single-handedly propelled them to the win with a scintillating century. He scored 115 runs off just 57 deliveries and was ably assisted by Mehidy Hasan Miraz as the duo got Tigers off to a solid start.
Earlier with the ball, the Tigers struggled to contain Platoons in the death overs with only Mohammad Amir and Robbie Frylicnk proving to be effective. Although Aminul Islam failed to pick up a wicket, he bowled a tight spell, in which he conceded just 21 runs in his three overs.
Mushfiqur Rahim, Rilee Rossouw, Robbie Frylinck, Nazmul Hossain, Shamsur Rahman, Mehidy Hasan, N Zadran, Aminul Islam, Shafiul Islam, Mohammad Amir, Shahidul Islam.
Rajshahi Royals appeared to be losing momentum at one stage in the tournament, but quickly bounced back at the back-end of the league stage to finish second on the points table. They finished with 16 points to their name with a net run-rate of 0.42.
Rajshahi Royals won three of their last four matches as they finished the round with much-needed momentum. In their last match of the league stage, they defeated Chattogram Challengers by a massive margin of eight wickets, chasing the total down with more than a couple of overs to spare.
While they scripted a terrific chase to win the match, the match was actually set up by their bowlers. Bowling first on an excellent surface to bat on, Royals' bowlers picked wickets at regular intervals and never allowed Chattogram Challengers to gain momentum. Andre Russell used the same strategy that he has been using in the tournament, that strategy to use as many bowlers as possible. He used eight bowlers on the day and Shoaib Malik, who returned with the impressive figures of 1 for 11 in his three overs. Abu Jayed and Mohammad Irfan were impressive as well in the powerplay overs as they didn't allow the Challengers to score freely even with the field restrictions on.
In response to the Challengers' 155-run total, Rajshahi Royals got off to a terrific start with Liton Das and Afif Hossain batting beautifully in the powerplay. They lost their first wicket after their openers added 88 runs for the first wicket. Shoaib Malik played a beautiful cameo of 43 runs and stayed on crease till the end of the chase to take Royals home.
All in all, the Royals have one of the most complete teams in the tournament and with almost each of their players contributing in one way or the other, beating them is going to be difficult, even for the Khulna Tigers.
Alok Kapali, Farhad Reza, Kamrul Islam, Taijul Islam, Abu Jayed, Liton Das, Afif Hossain, Shoaib Malik, RS Bopara, Mohammad Irfan, Andre Russell.
While the team losing this upcoming encounter will still stay in the hunt for the title, the winning team will progress straight to the final. The incentive to win this match is massive and both the sides are likely to come in all guns blazing. The Tigers have a fantastic in-form batting unit whereas the Royals have a terrific battery of all-rounders, who all can be match-winners on their day. Considering the composition of the two sides and the way these two have played in the tournament, Khulna Tigers have a slightly better chance to emerge on top in the upcoming fixture.
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