Namibia pulled off perhaps their greatest ever victory with a dominant win over Sri Lanka in the T20 World Cup opener. Jan Frylinck, JJ Smit, and Ben Shikongo starred as the Eagles defeated the Asia Cup champions by 55 runs in Geelong.
After losing the toss, the Namibians were asked to bat and found the powerplay tough going. On a pitch with inconsistent pace and bounce, the top order struggled with their timing – both Michael van Lingen and Divan La Cock fell to leading edges in the first three overs. JN Lofite-Eaton hit two boundaries before edging Karunaratne to Kusal Mendis, and the Eagles finished the powerplay 43/3.
Gerhard Erasmus and Stephan Baard spent the middle orders slowly building a platform before the skipper fell to Hasaranaga. Baard fell for 24 in the 15th over trying to accelerate, and David Weise was caught behind for a duck, leaving Namibia 93/6 with 5.4 overs remaining.
At this point, JJ Smit joined Jan Frylinck in the middle. The pair upped the scoring rate by running twos into the deep, before JJ Smit smashed two sixes over midwicket. Frylinck (44) and Smit (31*) raised a partnership of 70, with Frylinck run out on the last ball. The onslaught pushed Namibia to 163/7, which looked to be a par total.
The Eagles didn’t hesitate to seize the momentum, with Mendis falling to Weise in the 2nd over, miscuing a pull shot. But the bulk of the damage came in the 4th over when Ben Shikongo dismissed Nissanka and Danushka in consecutive balls. Although the hattrick ball, and LBW appeal, was turned down, a double wicket maiden had put the pressure on the Sri Lankans. Dhananjaya succumbed to the pressure in the 7th over, with the score 40/4.
Rajapaksa and Shanaka threatened to rebuild the innings and take the game away, but when the former hauled out to Long On, it started a procession of wickets which left Namibia in an unassailable position. Smit, Scholtz and Frylinck chipped in as Sri Lanka collapsed to 92/9. David Weise sealed the game with the last ball of the 19th, Sri Lanka 108 all out.
Frylinck was Player of the Match for his all-round performance, but it was characterised by Namibia’s discipline, as they outclassed their full-member opposition in all departments. The result adds to an extraordinary 12-months for the Eagles, in which they have beaten Ireland to qualify for the Super 12s in last year’s event, and beaten Zimbabwe 3-2 in a bilateral series. But this result is the most significant, not only for beating the 8th ranked side, but also the margin of victory and the extent to which they dominated their opponents.
The result also blows Group A open. The margin of victory means that Sri Lanka, who started as favourites to win the group, are left with two must win fixtures against UAE and Netherlands on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. Namibia’s victory puts them in a strong position to advance to the Super 12s for the 2nd consecutive year.
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