Rangpur Riders replaced Khulna Titans at the top of the points table after beating them convincingly by seven wickets in the Bangladesh Premier League Twenty20's fourth edition at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in the port city on Tuesday.
In the process, Rangpur did the double over Khulna following their comprehensive nine-wicket win in the corresponding fixture.
With five wins from six matches, Rangpur lead the standings while Khulna are second with 10 points having played a game more.
Opting to bat, Khulna continued their poor run with the bat in the tournament, posting a small total of 125/7. Rangpur faced no problems overhauling the target with an over to spare.
The Khulna opening batsmen had no intent whatsoever as both Andre Fletcher (eight) and Abdul Mazid (10) departed cheaply.
Khulna have mostly been relying on their skipper Mahmudullah to rescue them from early trouble but for a change, the Mymensingh cricketer was dismissed for 11, making things worse for the batting side.
Taibur Rahman was the highest scorer with 32 off 37 balls while Riki Wessels added 27 from 33 deliveries.
All-rounder Ariful Haque (22 off 13 balls) smashed two sixes off spinner Shahid Afridi in the last over to give Khulna's total some sort of respectability.
However, besides Khulna's failings, one must also give credit to the Rangpur bowlers as they managed to restrict the opposition for a below-par total. The Khulna batters were never allowed to settle down in the face of some disciplined bowling by left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny, Afridi and paceman Rubel Hossain, who all picked up two wickets each.
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Rangpur's Shahid Afridi exults after taking one of his two wickets DHAKA TRIBUNE
In reply, Soumya Sarkar extended his run of poor form as the elegant left-hander departed off the bowling of pacer Junaid Khan for three.
But Rangpur’s wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad, along with Mohammad Mithun, added 74 runs for the second wicket to take their side on the verge of victory. Shahzad was eventually dismissed after scoring 37 off 38 balls while the in-form Mithun remained not out on 49 off 41 balls.
Afridi made 26 off 20 balls but not before surviving twice as he was first cleaned up off a no-ball. Then Benny Howell dropped a catch off his own bowling before Afridi was finally dismissed for 26.
However, it was too little, too late as Mithun, alongside the unbeaten Liam Dawson (five) took their side to victory, and at the summit of the points table.
Rangpur Riders 129/3 in 19 overs
(Sunny 2/16, Rubel 2/19, Afridi 2/30) beat Khulna Titans 125/7
(Mithun 49*, Shahzad 37, Afridi 26) by seven wickets
WHAT THEY SAID
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Khulna skipper Mahmudullah relaxes during drinks break DHAKA TRIBUNE
Khulna Titans captain Mahmudullah
Obviously we are worried about our batting department as we are now heading towards the business end of the tournament. Yes, we are concerned about our top-order. We tried a couple of changes but nothing has worked for us so far. But I am hopeful that if we are able to get a good start in a game, things will change and the confidence among the top-order will increase. So far we have played good cricket in the tournament as we have won five out of seven matches. We have five more games remaining. We will try to win another two-three games. Then Insha Allah, it will be good for us and we will be able to be in a good position after the first round.
Rangpur Riders all-rounder Ziaur Rahman
Our bowlers bowled really well and in the right areas. We bowled according to plan. At the moment, we are at the top of the table but still we have six more games left. We want to go match by match. We are trying to execute the plan given by the coach [Javed Omar Belim] and the team management. Our bowlers and batsmen are doing a great job. Soumya [Sarkar] is a good player and going through a tough time. We have given him the license to play freely. He is working really hard. I am hopeful that he will come back strong. Our bowlers had a great contribution behind the success and our top order has also been great. We are mentally prepared to give our best in the coming matches.