Namibia 120/7 off 30.3 overs (Frylick 23*, Amini 3/46) defeated PNG 118 (Soper 36, Frylinck 3/16, Williams 3/25, Smit 3/34) off 42.1 overs (Soper 36, Frylinck 3/16) by 3 wickets with 117 balls remaining.
Namibia sealed a tense 3-wicket win against PNG in their tournament opener at Wanderers today. In front of a slightly disappointing home crowd (especially considering it is a public holiday weekend), composed primarily of family and friends, the Africans stumbled across the line in a slippery chase after PNG were bundled out for just 118. Coming in at a precarious 88/7, Jan Frylinck steadied the wobbling Namibian innings with a muscular 23* off 20 balls – including a stratospheric six launched over the roof of the clubhouse at cow corner. It had been a game effort from the PNG bowling unit to bring them this close to defending a subpar total, with legspinner CJ Amini the standout as he claimed 3 wickets. Running through the middle order, Amini dismissed both the captain Gerhard Erasmus (deceiving him through the air to force a lobbed catch to midwicket) and veteran Craig Williams (stumped round his legs) to leave Namibia reeling at 54/5. A communication breakdown led to the runout of Viljoen, and then when Assad Vala slid an offspinner into the back pad of Karl Birkenstock (who got himself in a tangle attempting to reverse sweep), PNG looked like they had the momentum to defend their paltry total. But Jan Frylinck was the man to step up for Namibia – seemingly batting on a different pitch to his colleagues, he thumped 3 fours and that huge six to make short work of the remaining 30 runs.
Earlier in the day Frylinck had also made a telling contribution with the ball, stopping PNG’s dangerous opener Tony Ura in his tracks for 13 after he’d already slapped away 3 boundaries (including a crackling cut shot through cover-point in the first over). With Ura done for pace, he was out of position at the crease and lobbed a defensive parry to the bowler. Frylinck then claimed the crucial wicket of PNG skipper Assad Vala (who slashed recklessly at a wider one), and peppered the batsmen with awkward bounce and angle from his left-arm approach. His opening partner JJ Smit also extracted some sharp carry from an unexpectedly lively pitch on his way to 3 wickets, as both men confounded predictions of them being spin-friendly and slow as they produced some fizzing bouncers. Spin did play a part however, in the form of Bernard Scholtz, whose miserly left-arm orthodox tied PNG in knots as he bowled 10 overs uninterrupted to claim 1/17.
For the Papuans, Chad Soper was the only batsman to put up any resistance. His disciplined 36 off 79 balls displayed the defensive technique and patience required to negotiate the Namibian bowling; unfortunately, none of his colleagues could apply themselves to the same extent, with a series of rash shots accounting for their most dangerous willow-wielders. If they are to turn things around against perennial rivals Hong Kong tomorrow, PNG’s highest priority will be to stay disciplined with the bat. Namibia will take much the same lesson going into their clash with the USA, whose strike bowler Ali Khan looked in ominous form against Oman.
Another area of concern for PNG was their fielding – they looked shabby in chasing down shots to the outfield at times, and botched a certain runout late in the game after both batsmen ended up at the non-striker’s end. It was an especially disappointing effort for a team that prides itself on its fielding. Namibia though were outstanding, with skipper Gerhard Erasmus grabbing a pair of screamers close to the bat, including an early favourite for catch of the tournament in the gully, where he launched himself up and backwards with hand outstretched to cling onto a thumping Norman Vanua cut shot. In a tournament with such fine margins, brilliance in the field could win them both matches and promotion.