USA 122/5 (Taylor 43, Patel 30*, Groenewald 3-28 defeated Namibia 121 (Green 36, Birkenstock 32, Taylor 4-23) by 5 wickets with 18.4 overs remaining
Sharing nine wickets between them, the spin quartet of Steven Taylor, Timil Patel, Karima Gore, and Nisarg Patel successfully routed Namibia. The momentum continues for the hosts, while the visitors endured a tough loss in their first League 2 game. Against a relatively upbeat USA side, Namibia folded for a paltry 121 after battling it out for 46 overs. Playing spin has been the Achilles heel for the side from southern Africa, and that same weakness was once again revealed.
On a bright Tuesday morning, Namibia’s captain Gerhard Erasmus opted to bat first, in the hopes that his side would strongly kick off their campaign and put together an adequate total. USA made one change, with right-arm pacer Jessy Singh coming in as a like-for-life replacement for Rusty Theron, who was rested due to a minor niggle.
However, things began in unceremonious fashion when opener Stephan Baard chopped a back-of-a-length delivery from Saurabh Netravalkar onto his stumps.
Karl Birkenstock and JP Kotze did well to weather the storm against the pacers, who maintained tight lines throughout the first powerplay. Believe it or not, the first run off the bat was scored in the fourth over. Kotze finally broke the shackles when he cashed in on a free hit, carting Singh over long-on for a maximum. Albeit tough, it was a crucial rebuilding phase for Namibia.
The hard work would be undone when offspinner Steven Taylor was introduced. Kotze swept a low full-toss, but straight to Elmore Hutchinson, who pouched a low catch at short fine leg. Four balls later, Gerhard Erasmus looked to punch off the back foot, but missed a skiddy delivery that cannoned onto the stumps.
In the 16th over, Timil Patel struck in his first over, courtesy a regulation legbreak, which breached Craig Williams’ defence and hit the top of off stump. This was setting the tone for a spin-bowling masterclass. Runs were drying up, thus enforcing a more circumspect approach from the Namibian batsmen. The outside edges were beaten, and there was hardly any aggression. Three overs later, Karima Gore, the star of the previous game, took the fifth wicket of the innings. After a watchful start, Christi Viljoen edged his drive to Xavier Marshall at slip.
It seemed like the innings would flounder fast after Birkenstock’s dogged rearguard of 32 when he missed a sweep off a full-length delivery from Gore. JJ Smit and Zane Green did their level best to occupy the crease and keep the spinners at bay, but multiple close calls kept their confidence in check. In the next 10 overs, there were only two boundaries, and Timil Patel finally ended the resistance when Smit nicked a flighted legbreak to Jaskaran Malhotra, the wicketkeeper.
At 89 for 7 with a run rate below three, there was little progress, and another two wickets for Taylor ensured that the end is nigh. Green briefly counterattacked after a largely quiet outing, but could muster just the 36 from 75. Nisarg Patel took the final wicket, and that was that.
With 122 to chase, there was little pressure for the home side. Malhotra got off to an encouraging start, stroking two boundaries in the second over. But with the flow of runs decreasing in the next five overs, he gave away his wicket, sweeping left-arm spinner Zhivago Groenewald straight to the midwicket fielder.
Xavier Marshall had another jittery stay at the crease, and he too succumbed to Groenewald while attempting an aggressive shot. Despite the two early wickets, Steven Taylor’s already productive day got even better. A brisk 43 from 58 balls and a 68-run partnership with Monank Patel (30 not out), nearly brought the hosts home. Unlike most of the others, Taylor had minimal issues with attacking the spinners, walloping three sixes over midwicket and long-on.
After Taylor’s dismissal, a flurry of wickets would ensue, but it was too little too late. USA completed a comfortable, 5-wicket win with a little over 18 overs to spare. Taylor would fittingly earn the Man of the Match award for his all-round prowess.
That’s two wins on the trot for Team USA, and the next game is against Papua New Guinea two days from now. It was a close game last time, so it should be an interesting rematch.
Namibia, on the other hand, will play USA in three days. The extended inter-match break will be a great opportunity to regroup, reassess, and plan a stronger comeback.