It’s been almost exactly two years since Namibia booked their place at the T20 World Cup, and they’ve spent much of the intervening time experimenting with team combinations, rotating players and building squad depth.
They squeezed in some matches early in 2020 before the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic brought international cricket to a screeching halt, with a Cricket World Cup League 2 tri-series in January, and a development series against Ireland in February.
The Oman-hosted CWCL2 series highlighted their boom-or-bust approach with the bat which coach Pierre de Bruyn has sought to rectify – over two days they piled on 324/7 in a dominant victory against the table-topping Omanis, before being bundled out for 94 as they were embarrassed by the UAE. The tour to South Africa against Ireland Wolves was a high-scoring one, but the main discovery was tall left-arm fast man Ruben Trumpelmann, playing for the first time in Namibian colours after qualifying through his father.
Since that series though, the pandemic has forced Namibia to turn inwards – they launched the domestic Richelieu T20 competition in March of 2020, but they had to wait until October to finish the season. The layoff allowed young allrounder Jan-Nicol Loftie-Eaton to burst onto the scene with a spectacular double of unbeaten centuries on the same day in October. Fellow U19 alumnus Divan la Cock also propelled himself into contention with the highest run tally and an unbeaten ton in the final, albeit in a losing cause.
2021 has been an enterprising time for the Namibians. With the regular home season pushed back due to heavy summer rains (a welcome relief to an ongoing drought event), the second Richelieu event ran across March and April, as well as tours by both Uganda and a South African emerging side into May. In August, an emerging Zimbabwe team toured as well, then the South African franchise side the Titans, before a September tour to South Africa where they faced the Knights franchise. Namibia beat all comers, clean-sweeping Uganda and the Zimbabweans across the 50 and 20 over formats, recording 2-1 series wins against the South Africans in both formats, then going down in the lone one-dayer and taking the T20s 3-1 against the Titans, and another 3-1 in the T20s against the Knights.
While Uganda and Zimbabwe both sent teams that were noticeably below Namibia’s standard, consistently winning against the quality South African sides (including a number of internationally-capped players) will be more encouraging for the upcoming T20 World Cup campaign. Questions remain around Namibia’s chasing, with four of their five losses coming when they bowled first, and the Eagles certainly look most threatening in their ability to run up massive totals and bowl defensively. They also remain susceptible to collapsing if they go too hard, and with so many allrounders in the named squad the temptation will still be there to just keep hitting.
The series have allowed coach Pierre de Bruyn ample scope for experimentation, with 20 players used across the 26 ‘international’ matches and in various configurations. Regular contributions from the senior players will be pleasing, with opener Stephan Baard, wicketkeeper Zane Green, veteran Craig Williams and skipper Gerhard Erasmus all in the runs, while Namibia’s fleet of allrounders also look well-prepared – newcomer Michael van Lingen, rising star Jan-Nicol Loftie-Eaton, and the ever-explosive JJ Smit have all contributed with both bat and ball, while Erasmus’ self-described ‘filthy offspin’ appears to have scrubbed up very nicely indeed as he sits among the leading wicket-takers over Namibia’s home season.
With the ball it’s significantly less settled, with Ruben Trumpelmann and Bernard Scholtz the only real standouts in a revolving door of specialist bowlers. And as former Proteas allrounder David Wiese is drafted into the World Cup squad, Gerhard Erasmus’ options have only grown.
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