Sylhet aim to topple favourites Dhaka
February 15, 2013
Start time 1800 (1200 GMT)
Unlike the first BPL season, the top four teams this time will be involved in a series of play-offs to reach the final, starting with the Race to the Final between Dhaka Gladiators and Sylhet Royals, the top two teams. The team that wins that match will qualify for the final, while the other team will have another shot, when they play a 'second semi-final' against the winner of the 'first semi-final,' contested by the third and fourth-placed teams in the league.
The format will suit the Royals, who are up against a team that has some of the best Twenty20 cricketers in the world. With the acquisition of Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard, Gladiators now have an enviable line-up. Tillakaratne Dilshan and Gayle will open the innings, with Shakib Al Hasan, Mohammad Ashraful and Pollard to follow. Anamul Haque and Darren Stevens have been useful during the tournament, and they will be the perfect foil for such a strong top order.
If Mashrafe Mortaza returns as captain, he will be part of an attack that will be led by Alfonso Thomas. The South African fast bowler has become the second bowler to take 200 wickets in Twenty20s after Dirk Nannes.
The Royals have banked on the whole team contributing, in all of their nine wins in the competition. Shivnarine Chanderpaul complements the aggressive Paul Stirling, and the captain Mushfiqur Rahim will lead a middle order that is filled with big-hitters. Nazmul Hossain Milon and Elton Chigumbura have often come good in tough situations while Mohammad Nabi's last-ditch effort in the team's previous game will increase their confidence.
Nannes will look to stop the likes of Gayle and Dilshan, and the performance of the spinners Sohag Gazi, Nabi and Suharwadi Shuvo will also be important. The two sides are not evenly matched; Royals will have to bring their best game to win the contest.
(Most recent first)
Dhaka Gladiators LWWWL
Sylhet Royals WWLWL
In the spotlight
Gladiators' Mosharraf Hossain can bowl four quiet overs, which will be valuable to them. Royals' batting line-up has often attacked the weak spinner in the opposition, so Mosharraf will be tested.
The Royals will hope Mohammad Nabi continues to surprise with his skills. Initially, he took wickets while opening the bowling, then he also started taking wickets towards the second half of the innings, and lately he has started scoring valuable runs. Nabi will be up against some of the best Twenty20 players in the world. If he can hold his own, a lot more doors will open up for the Afghanistan allrounder.
Chris Liddle and Josh Cobb may have to make way for Gayle and Pollard in the Gladiators line-up. If their regular captain Mortaza returns to the side, it will have the best of its local and foreign talent.
Dhaka Gladiators (possible): 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Mohammad Ashraful, 4 Shakib Al Hasan, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Darren Stevens, 7 Anamul Haque (wk), 8 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 9 Mosharraf Hossain, 10 Alfonso Thomas, 11 Saqlain Sajib.
The Royals will bring back Nannes for the big game, in place of Sulieman Benn. They may also be tempted to use Dwayne Smith's all-round skills, but the side is settled and has enough spin-bowling allrounders to fill the middle and lower-order.
Sylhet Royals (possible) 1 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 2 Paul Stirling, 3 Mushfiqur Rahim (capt & wk), 4 Mominul Haque, 5 Elton Chigumbura, 6 Mohammad Nabi, 7 Nazmul Hossain Milon, 8 Suhrawadi Shuvo, 9 Sohag Gazi, 10 Dirk Nannes, 11 Bishwanath Halder
Pitch and conditions
The Mirpur pitches have given the batsmen a lot to be happy about, and the spinners will not buy into the claim that the wickets have been slow in this tournament. The obvious expectation would be of a lot of runs and batting first will be advantageous.
The teams have played each other twice during the league stage. The Royals won the first game by seven wickets, before the Gladiators beat them by 31 runs four days later.
Quotes"I think the Sohag Gazi-Chris Gayle battle will be resumed tomorrow, which I guess will be interesting to see. Pollard is also on fire. He got a hundred against Australia and took three wickets in the last game, he is in fantastic form."
Dhaka Gladiators' coach Ian Pont.
"The biggest strength for us is the coordination and the cooperation that the players have shown throughout the tournament. We want to focus on our performance rather than consider who we are playing with."
Sylhet Royals' coach Mohammad Salahuddin.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent