Preview: All eyes on Namibia as they aim to beat UAE and take pole position in Group A
Despite the loss to the Netherlands, a big win over Sri Lanka in the first match of the tournament has potentially put Namibia in prime position to top Group A at the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2022 and qualify for the Super 12.
They have a spirited UAE side to overcome, though, on Thursday when the teams meet in Geelong. These two sides have met only once before in T20Is - last year in Dubai - with Namibia winning by 17 runs.
Jan Frylinck, who starred in Namibia's win over Sri Lanka, picked up a six-fer in that contest to lead Namibia to a win after a strong start from UAE in the run chase. Frylinck might remain one of Namibia trump cards this time around too, but the focus is also on the other fast bowling all-rounders, JJ Smit and David Wiese, both of whom were denied time with the bat against Netherlands, a ploy that potentially cost them the game.
UAE will look to tackle Namibia's middle-order heavy batting with the duo of Aayan Khan and hat-trick hero Karthik Meiyappan. With the Geelong surface being slightly two-paced, UAE will fancy their chances against Namibia, who have tended to backload their batters to maximise in the death, a risky move in any T20 game.
Against Sri Lanka, in the game they won, Namibia were 95/6 in 15 overs before the duo of Frylinck and Smit turned it around. In the next game against the Netherlands, they ambled along to 87/4 in 16 overs, before some late hitting gave them 121 on board, a total that wasn't quite enough despite their appreciable effort with the ball.
Namibia could start off by pushing skipper Gerhard Erasmus back up the order. They have a long batting line-up too, which gives them the freedom to go hammer and tongs from the start.
That said, Namibia could benefit from bringing back Ruben Trumpelmann to bolster the pace attack by benching one of the batters. This would not only give the late-order hitters more time with the bat, but also add significantly to the Powerplay threat they could pose to UAE with the ball.
Wiese hasn't had a huge role so far with the bat, but put on a fine performance with the ball in Namibia's win over Sri Lanka, finishing with 2/16 in his four overs. One of Namibia's several multi-utility cricketers, Wiese is an unassuming, experienced performer with a great track record.
Namibia kept him back for too long against the Netherlands, but expect them to unleash him earlier, if needed, against UAE. Wiese has also been an unheralded hero with the ball for them, controlling the scoring rate in the Powerplay, and picking up crucial wickets.
Wiese had an injury scare in the last game, but has been confirmed to be fit for this contest by the skipper.
Namibia: Michael van Lingen, Divan la Cock, Stephen Baard, Gerhard erasmus (c), Jan Nicol Loftie-Eaton, Jan Frylinck, David Wiese, JJ Smit, Zane Green, Bernard Scholtz, Ben Shikongo
UAE: Chirag Suri, Muhammad Waseem, Aryan Lakra, Chundangapoyil Rizwan (c), Basil Hameed, Vriitya Aravind, Afzal Aayan Khan, Kashif Daud, Karthik Meiyappan, Junaid Siddique, Zahoor Khan
Dream XI Fantasy Picks
The Namibia left-arm quick and late-order all-rounder is a great addition to any fantasy team. With an economy rate under seven runs per over and a bowling strike rate of 16.2, there's no mistaking Smit's abilities with the ball. In addition to this, he packs quite a punch with the bat, striking at a rate of 148.02 in his T20I career. Surely, Namibia aren't planning on holding him back with the bat in this key clash.
Meiyappan might have shot to fame with the hat-trick against Sri Lanka, but the leg-spinner, with a bag of tricks, has had a formidable start to his T20I career even otherwise, grabbing 21 wickets in 13 T20Is at an average of 14.33 and an economy rate of 6.84. His challenge will be against the three left-handers in Namibia's top seven.
The skipper is 37 runs short of becoming the first Namibia batter to make 1000 T20I runs. A hot topic of discussion after the loss to the Netherlands was how Namibia kept back some of their best batters. We are unlikely to see a repeat of that, meaning Erasmus could come up to No.4 to anchor the innings, making him a viable fantasy option.
THIS IS THE BIG TIME!
Feel the buzz in the stands and see the best teams in the world play on the biggest stage of all.