After winning five out of their first six games, it looked like suddenly Rajshahi Royals had lost all their momentum as they lost two consecutive games. It looked worse because of the manner they lost in, without any fight, being dominated. But finally, they have come out of the slump at Sylhet as they managed to beat Rangpur Rangers by 30 runs to claim the top spot of the Bangabandhu Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) T20 2019-20.
In the post-match press conference, the man of the match Ravi Bopara expressed his thoughts and said that he was delighted with the team's opening partnership of Liton Das and Afif Hossain.
Liton and Afif have been the regular openers for Rajshahi this time around even though Afif has been more known for batting at no. 3. But their stand has often provided Rajshahi with a flying start and Bopara was fascinated with how they have helped the side.
"I think they have been brilliant in the first six overs. If you look at the partnerships they put together, they gave us 40-50 runs in most of the matches and generally we have gone on to win those matches. So, they have been fantastic," the English all-rounder said.
He further added, "I'm pretty sure they have got the highest ratio of the tournament in terms of partnerships. I don't know, I can't be sure. But when they together bat really well, they set a good foundation for our middle-order. We have got a powerful middle order, so it gives us the opportunity to come in and play freely."
Two defeats in a row had pegged Rajshahi a bit back but Bopara seemed to be not concerned with that as he believed that losing matches were the part of any tournament.
"It's good (to win). I think what you have to keep in mind in T20 cricket, in the league, you are not going to win every game. It's never the case. I have never played in a league where you have won every game. You have to lose sometimes and it keeps you honest," the veteran all-rounder said.
Rajshahi's regular captain, Andre Russell did not play in the match because of an injury. Questioned when he would be back, Bopara said that he hopes for Russell to be back in the next game.
"Russell will be fine. He obviously comes with a niggle in his knee. I am sure he will be fine for the next match within a couple of days," Bopara said.
On his way to winning the match, Bopara scored 50 off 29 deliveries. When he and the Rajshahi openers batted, it looked like an easy pitch to bat on but Bopara disagreed with that. When questioned if the wicket was favourable for the batters, Bopara replied, "Favourable for batsman? No, I don't think so. It was a bit difficult, some balls were stopping and some were skidding, it was a very difficult wicket to bat on for your first 10-15 balls. You have to get yourself in and then obviously cash in in the back end (of the innings). But sometimes the plan can go wrong as well. So, it was one of those days when it happens for you. I think, Shoaib Malik played a fantastic innings. He held the innings together, kept the pressure and handled it very well."
Rajshahi managed to pick 22 off the last over bowled by Mustafizur Rahman, which took them to a commendable 179-4. Bopara was asked if that was the turning point of the game and Bopara agreed.
"Possibly (it was). We needed a big over there at the end and we managed a big over. It does help because you take the momentum into the second innings. So it was a good over for us and I think it helped having a left-hander there for Mustafiz," he answered.
Bopara was also asked about his all-round performances which were helping the team and Bopara responded that that was his job.
"That's my job as an all-rounder. It could be my day with the ball, if it's not my day with the ball, then hopefully it's my day with the bat. Or if it's not my day with the bat, then hopefully it's my day with the ball. So, it gives a good balance to the side. We have got four overseas all-rounders in our squad, so that makes a big difference," Bopara stated.
Rajshahi will face Sylhet Thunder in their last match of the Sylhet stage on January 4, 2020.