IPL 2021 | SRH vs MI: Mumbai still in hunt for a Playoffs place, all they need is a miracle against Sunrisers
7 Oct 2021
The Everest Premier League 2021, which finally took place after two seasons of non-engagement in 2019 and 2020 due to various reasons including the Covid-19 pandemic, has now reached its penultimate destination with the final match of the season to be played on October 8 between Chitwan Tigers and Pokhara Rhinos at the Tribhuvan University International Cricket Ground in Kirtipur, Kathmandu.
The league has been marred by rain disruptions, which have resulted in a few washouts and few other games being decided through the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method. However, crossing all such hurdles and earning important victories, Pokhra and Chitwan towns made it to the final. Here’s a look at how they reached the final
In their first-ever match this season, the Tigers beat Biratnagar Warriors by two wickets courtesy of a composed innings by Rajesh Pulami as they chased down 152. While their next game against the Bhairahawa Gladiators was abandoned due to rain, the Tigers came back to win their next game as well.
This three-wicket win was against Kathmandu Kings XI who had players like Afghan Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Zimbabwe’s Ryan Burl and Nepal’s own superstar Sandeep Lamichhane. From close wins, the Tigers showed their prowess in the next game and beat Pokhara Rhinos by nine wickets. In this Afghan wicketkeeper batter, Mohammad Shehzad shone for Tigers with the bat.
In their fifth game, the Tigers beat defending champions Lalitpur Patriots to top the table. But the sixth match, which was actually the replay of the second game, was postponed due to the wet outfield Tigers somewhat lost the plot as they were beaten by Gladiators by six wickets.
But even after that loss, they finished at the top of the six-team points tables and in Qualifier 1, beat Pokhara Rhinos, once again by nine wickets to advance to the final.
The funky Afghan wicket-keeper who entered the international arena on his ability to strike the ball mighty hard has been out of the national set-up for quite a long now. But his ability and skills in the shortest format of the game are still recognisable and Chitwan signed him as their overseas player for that reason.
He has proved the signing right becoming the leading run-getter this season. The 33-year-old who still harbours hopes of a national call up has scored 196 runs with an average of 39.20 and a strike rate of 132 with 63* against Pokhra Rhinos being his best. Facing the Rhinos again, he would fancy his chances of taking his team home once again.
While it has been Sehzad with the bat, with the ball, Sagar Dhakal has been the crusader for the Tigers. The 19-year-old left-arm orthodox bowler has actually been the leader of the pack that combines Karim Janat, Shahab Alam and Kamal Singh Airee.
While Dhakal has 13 wickets to his kitty in six innings with an average of 9.46 and an economy rate of 5.34, the rest three have together picked up 25 wickets. This quartet has been the reason for the Tigers’ success in this league so far.
Pokhara Rhinos finished the league stage with an equal number of points as Bhairahawa Gladiators. The net run rate of Gladiators was better than Rhinos, but since Rhinos had won more matches, they were controversially given the second spot in the Points Table.
In the league stage, the team from Pokhara won their three games, one game was abandoned due to bad weather and lost only against the Tigers, who they would also be facing in the Final.
In Qualifier 1, they once again lost to the Tigers and by the same margin as they had in the league stage. In Qualifier-2, the Rhinos came back and beat Gladiators courtesy of a great all-around showing by their Sri Lankan import Sahan Arachchige to qualify for the Final.
The all-rounder has been a breath of fresh air in the Pokhara Rhinos squad. With 143 runs at an average of 47.66 and strike rate of 126 and four wickets to his kitty at 17.50 apiece, the Sri Lankan has raised hopes for the Pokhra team going into the Final. Most importantly, with his performance in the Qualifier-2, it has become clear that he is a big match player and if found in the right form, the 25-year-old could very well be the game-changer in the final.
A seasoned professional, the South African has managed to prove over the years that he is capable of changing matches single-handedly. What Mohammad Shahzad is to Chitwan Tigers, Levi could very well be for Rhinos. With an experience of more than 100 First Class, List A and more than 200 T20 games playing around the world, the 33-year-old packs a heavy punch, which might land in the right place in the final.
In the league so far, the Proteas has scored 155 runs, striking at more than 150. His average of 25 shows that he has been consistent as well.
Both the teams have reached the final of this top-rated competition in Nepalese cricket for the first time. Thus a title win for either of them would do a world of good regarding competition in the league and also with respect to building fan bases. Chitwan have beaten Pokhara twice in the league and Qualifier and that too by a huge margin. But the final is altogether a different ball game. Can the Rhinos turn it on in the match that matters the most?