Buoyed by success at World Cricket League 2 and the subsequent Cricket World Cup League 2 tri-series in Lauderhill, Namibia look to cap off a barnstorming 2019 in UAE, albeit in the T20 format. Possessed with a balance of batting, multiple all-rounders and the trump card of left-arm orthodox, Namibia sit on the cusp of booking tickets to Australia.
Finishing first in African Regional qualifying, Namibia eased through their Southern Sub-Regional group, albeit with a stumble against hosts Botswana after securing progress. Several first team members returned for African regional qualifying in Uganda, going three from three before inclement weather brought a soggy end to proceedings.
Fittingly, their third win which secured their qualification was a 10-wicket win against Botswana. Christi Viljoen ripped through with figures of 5/9 on his return to the team, and Niko Davin gave his teammates an early afternoon with a 19-ball 37.
Namibia come into the tournament with rhythm, and a consistency both in their performances and in their team selection. Almost every player in their squad has played a part in either their WCL2 or CWCL2 campaign, where winning pressure matches has become a habit. Davin as an explosive hitting addition only adds to their T20 credentials, and carries form through scores in their 4-0 bilateral series whitewash of Botswana in August.
Speaking to Emerging Cricket, Namibian coach Pierre de Bruyn believes that strong performances in any format brings good energy.
“We’ve prepared well for this tournament. We had Florida (CWCL2) a couple of weeks ago. It’s a different format but it’s important game time. Important momentum.
“We’re very proud team that has built up a very strong culture the last ten months from January. We had to qualify in April for ODI status. We did that. We were the underdogs there.
“Then we had to go to Uganda, and we won that. Then onto Florida and we won that.”
Tinkering with their T20 batting line-up in the Botswana series, Jean-Pierre Kotze was tested up top, though inflicted his power with greater effect at number four. In his official T20I debut, Kotze squeezed in a 43-ball hundred with a two off the last ball of the innings in their 2nd T20.
It’s been a year to remember for Kotze, who has two one-day centuries in 2019 to accompany his T20 ton. He sprung Namibia into ODI status with a slamming 148 (86) against Hong Kong in April, and raced to a century in Florida against the USA in their CWCL2 tri-series in September. In a jaw-dropping effort, Kotze made 136 (109) at number three, with the team’s total just 178 as he fell to Jessy Singh.
With Davin in to motor during the Power Play, Kotze’s strength of playing the sweep shot and its variations means he could be Namibia’s man to continue the attack in the middle overs, especially if spin features as much as it should in UAE.
“JP Kotze has had a phenomenal couple of tournaments for Namibia. He’s got proper X-Factor in him.”Namibian coach Pierre de Bruyn
Around Davin and Kotze, Stephen Baard and skipper Gerhard Erasmus possess both the ability to turn the strike over, or lift if required. Zane Green will take the gloves, while all-rounders Craig Williams, Viljoen and JJ Smit give Erasmus flexibility in their batting. The all-round talent of Pikky Ya France, who gives Erasmus an off-spinning option, is likely to be needed at some point during the tournament.
Ones to watch
JJ Smit’s whirlwind 2019 included a taste of franchise T20 cricket, after he was picked up by the Vancouver Knights in the Canadian Global T20 earlier in the year. Learning from the likes of Chris Gayle, Andre Russell and Shoaib Malik, Smit also teamed up with Dutchman Tobias Visee, who will be his adversary on October 19.
Smit could push up the order if Namibia want to launch in the final overs, though will definitely spearhead the Namibian attack. Williams and Viljoen add to the pace team, as well as WCL2 Final Player of the Match, Jan Frylinck. There are also big wraps on Walvis Bay youngster Ben Shikongo, who waits for his chance to rip in.
Even with the threat of the quicks, it’s the left-arm orthodox dual threat of Zhivago Groenewald and Bernard Scholtz that may provide the key for Namibia. Groenewald played a key role in their Florida campaign, with Scholtz known to keep things tight. Spinning away from right-handers and blessed with slow wickets, opposition collapses may ensue. Namibia look good to sneak in to snare one of the six spots for next year, and de Bruyn believes his side can handle the pressure.
“We know that the stakes are extremely high but I believe that we’ve got 15 players here that are capable of making the nation very proud.”
Gerhard Erasmus ©, Jan Frylinck (vc), Stephan Baard, Karl Birkenstock, Niko Davin, Zane Green, Zhivago Groenewald, Jean-Pierre Kotze, Tangeni Lungameni, Bernard Scholtz, Ben Shikongo, JJ Smit, Christi Viljoen, Pikky Ya France