Namibia: Richelieu T20 concludes after coronavirus delay

Namibia’s long-interrupted domestic T20 competition resumed this weekend, with the round-robin stage wrapping up on Saturday and the finals played on Sunday. The Gerhard Erasmus-led Blasting team edged the Strikers by 5 runs in an exciting final to conclude the weekend’s action.

Originally held in March this year, the Richelieu Franchise T20 saw BA Blasting run out undefeated table-toppers with 4 consecutive victories when the carnival-style event was cut short due to coronavirus restrictions.

In that first stage, Erasmus led the way with the bat while the experienced bowling trio of Mika Mutumbe, Karl Birkenstock and Bernard Scholtz kept Blasting on top with the ball.

Upon the tournament’s return, Blasting’s inclusion of U19s star Nicol Loftie-Eaton (who hadn’t played in March) proved inspired, as he blazed to the top of the run charts with consecutive centuries in the last two group matches at Trustco United Ground.

BA Blasting’s Nicol Loftie-Eaton smashed consecutive centuries on his first day in the Richelieu Franchise T20. Photo: Cricket Namibia.

In the morning game against MR24/7 Emergency Services, he smashed 11 sixes on his way to 135* (58), then capped a remarkable performance by taking 3/20 with his legspin – including last man out Jan Thierauch.

Services has been more or less on track for the target of 241 at the halfway stage, with the total 107/2 and JJ Smit and Malan Kruger well set. But when Loftie-Eaton had Smit caught behind, the momentum drained out of the chase and they fell 84 runs short.

Loftie-Eaton’s dream day continued in the afternoon game against M&M Signs Strikers, where he hammered 121* (54) to carry Blasting to 214/4. The Strikers put up a strong fight in response, with rapid hands from young guns Lohan Louwrens (39 off 19) and Divan la Cock (73* off 35) keeping the chase alive; but strikes from seamers Mutumbe and Elton Ambambi to dismiss Jan Frylinck and Louwrens at crucial moments ultimately kept the Strikers 12 runs from victory.

BA Blasting’s dominance also decided the makeup of the semi-final, with Services eliminated despite picking up a consolation win against King Price Kings, while the Strikers stormed to second place with their own demolition of the Kings.

Mauritius Ngupita was the pick of the King Price Kings’ bowlers in their semifinal loss to M&M Signs Strikers. Photo: Cricket Namibia.

Going into the playoff after consecutive losses on Saturday, the Kings disappointed once more against the Strikers, with their batting again misfiring after a promising opening stand of 49 in 5 overs from JP Kotze and Marco Malan. Michael van Lingen’s quickfire 44 from the middle order lifted them to a respectable total, but with little support the Kings were dismissed for 146; Steven Delport grabbed 4/20, while skipper and ex-Namibia legspinner Nicolaas Scholtz was tidy as ever with 2/22.

In response, the Strikers polished off the chase in a canter and only four wickets down, with the experienced top order of Stephen Baard, Niko Davin and Lohan Louwrens propelling them into the final by the 17th over. This was despite the best efforts of the Kings’ offspinning duo Mauritius Ngupita (3/32) and Pikky Ya France (1/22).

Divan la Cock hit a magnificent century in a losing cause, as the Strikers went down to Blasting by 5 runs in the final. Photo: Cricket Namibia.

The final itself was a thriller, and a worthy conclusion to the competition, as Blasting edged the Strikers by 5 runs in what was almost a rerun of their encounter the day before. Blasting posted an even 200/7, with Erasmus (69 off 35) and Michiel du Preez (59 off 25) keeping the momentum up.

In response, Divan la Cock produced another brilliant unbeaten knock in a losing cause. His 123* (59) carried the Strikers lineup which again failed to provide enough support in pursuit of a daunting target, with his clean hitting straight down the ground a particular highlight.

For the bowlers, credit must go to Erasmus, who cannily brought on his part-time offspin after the powerplay and bowled four overs unchanged for 1/19, as well as Elton Ambambi, who held his nerve to close out the last over.

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