Unheralded Namibia produced one of the greatest shocks in youth cricketing history when they toppled defending champions South Africa by two wickets in a gripping Group A match of the 2016 Under-19 World Cup, played on January 31, 2016 at the Sheikh Kamal International Stadium in Cox’s Bazar.
Needing nothing less than a win to stay alive in the competition, South Africa crumbled in spectacular fashion after deciding to bat first. Having already dished out an ordinary performance against hosts Bangladesh, their batsmen simply imploded in the face of some disciplined pace bowling from their neighbours.
Left-arm pacer Fritz Coetzee, aged 18, set the tone by removing the openers in his first two overs itself. This excellent start was enough to galvanise the rest of the pack, as the underdogs showed that they had it in them to dictate terms against the ‘big boys’.
Michael van Lingen, another 18-year-old who was later named Man of the Match, ripped through the middle order as South Africa fell from a shaky 35/2 to a hopeless 37/6 in just 15 balls. Further sorrow was in store for the holders as they lost two more wickets with barely half the overs completed. The score read a scarcely-believable 60/8, and it could not have been worse.
Willem Ludick attempted a revival with a patient 42 from number eight, but the final total of 136/9 in the allotted 50 overs was far from convincing. Van Lingen (4/24) and Coetzee (3/16) shared seven victims between them, while 19-year-old captain Zane Green had a productive outing behind the wicket, pouching five catches.
With the bowlers having done their job, all the batsmen had to do was hold their nerves and see their side to a second consecutive win in the tournament – Namibia had defeated Scotland by nine wickets in their opening game. However, it was not going to be easy, as the bruised Proteas struck early, removing both openers to have the score at 10/2. In walked Lohan Louwrens, all of 16 years old.
Louwrens’ maturity belied his age as he built a highly creditable innings under pressure. Undeterred by the wickets falling around him, he set his sights on helping his team achieve the modest target. At 74/5, the contest could have gone either way, but Louwrens found an able partner in Charl Brits.
The pair shared a stand of 52 for the sixth wicket, and in spite of a late flurry of three wickets for ten runs, Namibia’s young guns ensured that they became the first sporting unit from their country to reach the quarterfinals of a major global event. Louwrens remained unbeaten on 58 from 97 balls, while Coetzee hit the winning single, much to the joy of his teammates.
Earlier in the week, Nepal had seen New Zealand off to enter the quarterfinals. The success of Namibia and Nepal was yet another reminder of how the presence of the Associate nations can add excitement to a global tournament. Namibia’s win was all the more significant, considering that it came against their celebrated neighbours who were defending their title.
Interestingly, this was not the first time that Namibia had collected a big scalp at the Under-19 World Cup. Back in the 2002 edition in New Zealand, they had beaten Sri Lanka by four wickets. Pace bowler Burton van Rooi – who went on to play for the senior side at the 2003 World Cup – was the hero of that game with 4/27.
Namibia’s triumph came as a ray of positivity to the country’s cricket fraternity, which was jolted by the unfortunate death of their star batsman Raymond van Schoor two months earlier. They were bowled out for 65 en route to an eight-wicket defeat against Bangladesh in their last group fixture, before going down by 197 runs to heavyweights India in the quarterfinal, but came back strongly to beat Nepal by 15 runs to clinch a commendable seventh-place finish.