In the end it was Namibia who fell at the final hurdle, victims of an inexcusably cruel competition structure and an inspired, resurgent performance by the United Arab Emirates.
The 7-run defeat, the second last-over decision of the day and the fourth out of six matches in Group A, was especially painful for David Wiese, who had bowled with great heart in the Emirati innings and who then brought his side to within 10 runs of victory and a place in the tournament proper before holing out to long on off Player of the Match Muhammad Waseem.
Waseem had earlier anchored the Emirati innings with a 41-ball 50 which included one four and three sixes, giving some much-needed momentum after the Namibian attack had controlled the game in the first ten overs; only 39 runs came in his eight-over opening stand with Vriitya Aravind, and the total reached 58 by the halfway mark only with his onslaught on the generally-parsimonious Jan Frylinck, hitting him over mid-off for four and then smashing him back over his head for six.
Ruben Trumpelmann, back from injury, was causing his share of problems for the batters, but although the scoring rate was comparatively modest the UAE still had plenty of wickets in hand.
In the end Waseem fell to Ben Shikongo, caught by Trumpelmann at short third man, and when Wiese removed Alishan Sharafu, well caught by keeper Zane Green, there were only three overs left and the total had reached 113.
JJ Smit’s next over cost just two runs, and Namibia could be justified in thinking that they were safely through to the next phase.
But Basil Hameed now took the initiative, hitting Wiese for four and six, and 12 runs came from the over.
Two sixes off Smit’s final over, one apiece for Chundangapoyil Rizwan and Hameed, and a four for latter took the score to a much more challenging 148, Rizwan finishing with a 29-ball 43 and Hameed with 25 from 14 deliveries; together they had added 35 from 18 balls and had given their side a fighting chance.
Trumpelmann and Bernard Scholtz had each conceded just 22 runs from their four overs, Wiese finishing with one for 27 even after Hameed’s late depredations.
149 was a pretty demanding target on this ground, and Namibia were soon in trouble: Stephan Baard hitting Junaid Siddique to short cover in the second over of their reply, and Michael van Lingen and Nicol Loftie-Eaton falling to successive overs from Hameed to reduce the side to 26 for three.
Worse was to follow when Karthik Meiyappan, the hat-trick hero in the Emiratis’ defeat by Sri Lanka, bowled Gerhard Erasmus with his second ball and then covered a lot of ground off his own bowling to run out Smit three deliveries later.
At 46 for five it seemed that the UAE were cruising to victory, but now Wiese joined Frylinck for what might well be a make-or-break partnership.
They added 21, but when Zahoor Khan bowled first Frylinck and then Green in the 13th over it was 69 for seven and Namibia’s hopes appeared to have evaporated.
Wiese was still there, however, and gradually he and Trumpelmann began to regain control, even though the asking rate was now over 12 an over.
The pressure was clearly having its effect: a misfield by Junaid Siddique at deep cover conceded an unnecessary boundary, and when Waseem, making a rare intervention with the ball, dropped a Wiese skyer off his own bowling and a possible run-out went begging, the momentum had swung back Namibia’s way.
36 were needed with three overs left, Wiese hitting a four and a six in Junaid’s next and reaching a 31-ball half-century which seemed destined to win the game for his side.
Zahoor bowled a crucial penultimate over, conceding just six runs, and 14 were needed off the part-timer Waseem’s last.
Maintaining an admirably full length, he kept the scoring down to a two and two singles off his first three deliveries, forcing Wiese into a big shot.
He tried to go straight, but the long-on boundary proved too long, and Sharafu took a fine catch to end a record-breaking stand of 70 and effectively win the match; a shattered Wiese departed with 55 from 36 deliveries, and it was left to Trumpelmann and Scholtz to end the formalities, Trumpelmann finishing with a 24-ball 25 not out.
Zahoor with two for 20 and Hameed with two for 17 bowled outstanding spells and young Aayan Khan conceded just 7 from two overs, but it was Waseem’s two for 16 which was in the end decisive.
The UAE had posted their first win of the tournament, but the real beneficiaries were the Dutch, who could celebrate their reprieve and their passage through to the Super 12. One could only feel sympathy, however, for Namibia and for Wiese, who had come so close and yet been denied.
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