EPL Final : Chitwan-Pokhara clash for the title
Chitwan Tigers and Pokhara Rhinos will lock horns against each other in the final match of the 4th edition of Everest Premier League (EPL) on Saturday at TU Cricket Ground, Kirtipur.
It was the first qualifier when these two teams last met each other. Pokhara Rhinos had a day to forget in that match as they were bundled out for mere 66 runs. Chitwan on one hand would be pretty confident after a dominating win in the qualifier while Pokhara on the other hand will be looking to take revenge in the grand finale.
Chitwan Tigers : Road to the Final
Chitwan Tigers have been undoubtedly the most impressive team this tournament so far. The Tigers have only one loss throught this season which came against Bhairahawa Gladiators in their last match of the leage round. Chitwan started their campaign with a win over Biratnagar Warriors and were unlucky that their second match against Bhairahawa was abandoned without a ball bowled.
The Tigers secured a place in playoffs easily with consecutive wins over Kathmandu Kings XI, Pokhara Rhinos and Lalitpur Patriots before losing to Bhairahawa in last league match.
Pokhara Rhinos : Road to the Final
The journery to the final was a mixed one for the Rhinos. Rhinos had to share a point each with Bhairahawa in their first match after rain stopped the play in the 11th over of the first innings. Their second game against Kathmandu Kings XI was abandoned without a ball being bowled. Pokhara came back strong with an impressive 9 wicket victory over Lalitpur Patriots following a 9 wicket loss against Chitwan. They secured a place in the playoffs after victories over Biratnagar and Kathmandu in following matches.
Team Analysis : Chitwan Tigers
The experienced Mohammad Shahzad have been doing an excellent job for them in the top of the order. Shahzad is the leading run scorer in the tournament with 196 runs from 6 matches to his name.
Chitwan will be a bit worried about his opening partner though. They went with Ishan Pandey as the other opener for initial few matches which didn't work out well as Ishan couldn't trouble the scorers much. Khadak Bohora was tried for 2 matches afterwards. They brought in Hasim Ansari in the qualifier match against Pokhara again. The team is clearly struggling to find a good opening partner for Shahzad. It will be interesting to see whom they prefer for the grand finale to partner with Shahzad.
Their middle order looks good with another Afghan Karim Janat along with Bhim Sharki, Dilip Nath and Rajesh Pulami.These guys have been consistently getting runs for them one day or the other. They also have good batting depth as they bat upto the skipper himself Sompal Kami and Kamal Singh Airee down the order.
The bowling lineup looks solid with the presence of Sompal and Kamal Singh Airee. We all have seen the way the spinning duo of Sagar Dhakal and Shahab Alam destroyed the Pokhara's batting in first qualifier. The team would be hoping for similar performance if not better from these spinners in the final too. Karim Janat is equally effective with the ball in hand and might play a vital role with his allround abilities for his team. Sagar and Karim are top 2 in the list of wicket takers this tournament with 13 and 9 wickets so far.
Team Analysis : Pokhara Rhinos
Similar to Chitwan, Pokhara needs to sort out their opening issues. Richard Levi has been doing well for them but he too is running out of parnters. They have tried Rit Gautam and Sunil Dhamala once after the other but none have proven their worth so far. Skipper Binod Bhandari hasn't been amongst runs at all. The allrounder Bibek Yadav has been an excellent find for them though. Bibek has caught everyone's eye with his medium pacers and too with his batting skills.
Guys like Asela Gunaratne and Sahan Arachchige needs to step up and lead from the front. The way young Bipin Rawal batted in the last match against Bhairahawa must have provided a boost to the team that local talents in the team are also capable of winning the matches.
Their bowling looks good enough with the pacers trio of Bikram Sob, Nandan Yadav and Kishor Mahato. Nandan in particularly has impressed a lot.
As far as my personal views are concerned, Chitwan Tigers looks to be clear favorites. Chitwan have defeated Pokhara two times this season and both the times it was an impressive 9 wicket victory. The prediction is 70-30 in favor of Chitwan but having said that Pokhara would be on a high after the last victory over Bhairahawa and will come hard at Chitwan.