Eagles soar, Eagles fall - Namibia tournament review
Most runs – Jan Frylinck (101)
Most wickets – Bernard Scholtz (4)
What went right
In a re-match of their opening encounter last year in UAE, Namibia gave an excellent account of themselves against Sri Lanka, proving continued experience against Full Members does wonders.
Though what was more remarkable than the result was the in-game turnaround from Gerhard Erasmus' men, staring down a similar defeat to last year before a smash and grab counter-attack with the bat, showcasing their depth in batting even further down the order.
When Namibia sat at 93/6, even staunch Associate cricket fans feared the worst. That's when Jan Frylinck stepped in.
Given a bigger batting role for Namibia, he repaid the faith with interest. He finished with 44* in 28 balls to hand his side momentum, and JJ Smit highlighted his hitting credentials with a 16-ball 31*.
Chasing 164, Sri Lanka were ambushed by Ben Shikongo, providing an extra yard of pace and a right-arm point of difference in a side of lefties. He claimed a double-wicket maiden, and Erasmus tightened the screws at Kardinia Park. Namibia took every chance, and as the the required rate became too big, the result became a foregone conclusion well before the final wicket.
What went wrong
Desperate to emulate their success in match one, it was unfortunately where their campaign peaked.
Seemingly in a comfortable spot with a win over the giant in the group, and with a net run rate to boot, the side effectively had two cracks to qualify for the next round, only to fall to the Netherlands and UAE.
While the loss to the Dutch was one that slipped through the fingers in a tight encounter, it'd be the defeat to UAE which was in equal measure heart-breaking and disappointing.
UAE overcame a slow start to make 148/3, with Muhammad Waseem finally finding his feet at the tournament with a half-century. Late hitting by captain CP Rizwan and Basil Hameed helped the total along, and Smit leaked 21 runs off the last over of the innings, swinging momentum.
Namibia plundered to 46/5, a hole too deep even for David Wiese to escape. His 55 from 36 balls took the match to the final over, though he couldn't land the final blow, eventually caught on the boundary as the side fell seven runs short.
What does the future hold?
Issues at the top of the order in 2021 once again plagued Namibia, though with age on their side in that department, it may not be an Achilles heel for much longer. Divan la Cock, Michael van Lingen, Lohan Louwrens and Nicol Loftie-Eaton should feature more prominently in the side, or skipper Erasmus may decide to move himself up to the top of the line-up, with a Stephen Baard perhaps the insurance policy at first or second drop.
Wiese has indicated he will play for Namibia as long as he's wanted in the set-up, though the future of fellow all-rounder Smit's fast-bowling may be up for discussion, due to his persistent knee issues. Smit would likely play in the team as a batter should he not bowl, and two-thirds of the squad will be under 30 come the next T20 World Cup in the USA and the West Indies.
Namibia will be hot favourites to take a spot from African regional qualifying under the new pathway structure for the 20-team tournament in 2024.
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