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Apart from the intriguing test battles going on with India taking on Australia and Pakistan locking horns with South Africa, we have plenty of T20 matches going on in cricketing circuit. It's only going to get more entertaining from here with Bangladesh's premier T20 competition, Bangladesh Premier League, set to begin on 5th of this month with Chittagong Vikings taking on Rangpur Riders in the opening game at Dhaka. All the sides have strengthened their respective squads and it's certainly expected to a tighter and a more intense competition this time around and we expect nothing different from the opening game of Bangladesh Premier League.
Rangpur Riders are perhaps the only team which has had so many ups and downs in the history of Bangladesh Premier League. However, they've been brilliant since Mashrafe Mortaza as taken over as the captain of the side.
Their last year's campaign was interesting where they peaked just at the right moment. They somehow managed to sneak into the top four with six wins from twelve games and imposing performances in the eliminator and the qualifier against Khulna Titans and Comilla Victorians propelled them to the final. Universe Boss, after being rather ordinary until then, unleashed his power with a magnificent 146-run knock as Riders lifted the title with a 57-run win over Dhaka Dynamites.
They've strengthened their team further by not only retaining their top-performing stars but also by signing new T20 veterans. They signed Alex Hales and AB de Villiers who are certain to boost their batting strength. However, AB de Villiers isn't expected to be with the team from the beginning and will join later.
With the signings of Caribbean speedsters in Oshane Thomas and Sheldon Cotrell along with Sean Williams, they have their bowling as well as all-rounder spot covered. Rangpur Riders are one of the most well-balanced sides of the tournament and have the capability to instill fear in any bowling attack with the kind of firepower available in their batting lineup.
AD Hales, Mohammad Mithun, Rilee Rossouw, Mehedi Maruf, RS Bopara, Benny Howell, Farhad Reza, Mashrafe Mortaza, S Gazi, Nazmul Islam, Shafiul Islam.
With most of the other teams strengthening their core by signing overseas players, Chittagong Vikings have employed an altogether different strategy of focusing on the local talent. In all the seasons of BPL gone so far, their performance has been dismal, to say the least. They've made to playoffs only once which was in 2016. It will be interesting to see if they are able to reap results without many big names available in their lineup.
From their last year's squad, they've retained Luke Ronchi and Sikandar Raza from the overseas contingent. In this year's draft, they picked up Mohammad Shahzad and Robbie Frylinck. Shahzad's experience with Rangpur Riders could come in handy as he might have a tip or two to share about their former teammates.
The Vikings have also picked up the last year's second-highest wicket-taker, Abu Jayed, to boost their local strength. Their most interesting pick is without a doubt Mohammad Ashraful and if he can deliver as he usually did during his pre-ban time, Vikings' batting will get a big boost for the future matches. Mushfiqur Rahim has been in superb form in the international circuit and will be looking to replicate his international form and change his team's fortunes.
M Shahzad, C Delport, Mohammad Ashraful, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mosaddek Hossain, Sikandar Raza, Robbie Frylinck, Nayeem Hasan, Sunzamul Islam, Abu Jayed, Khaled Ahmed.
Taking into account the results of previous editions of Bangladesh Premier League, this match appears to be a mismatch with Rangpur Riders being favorites. The Vikings have, however, reinforced their team and have some proven match-winners at their disposal. These are early days in the tournament and both the teams might be a little edgy in their first couple of games. Considering the team on paper, Rangpur Riders appear to be better-balanced and more power-packed with the presence of T20 veterans in Chris Gayle and Alex Hales. In addition to that, the inspirational leadership of Mashrafe Mortaza will also have a role to play. The Rangpur Riders go in as firm favorites to win the first match of the tournament and start their campaign on a happy note.
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