Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Namibia welcome UAE and Oman as League 2 resumes. JJ Smit will lead Namibia in Gerhard Erasmus' absence
JJ Smit will lead Namibia in Gerhard Erasmus' absence
After an impressive turn on the global stage at the T20 WC, either in the Super 12s in the case of Namibia or as hosts in the case of the UAE and Oman, the three countries return to the grind of ODI league cricket as CWC League 2 resumes at Windhoek. All three will be disheartened by the news that the greatest prize on offer in the competition, a chance to compete in the next Super League, has been taken off the table after the last ICC Board meeting, but nonetheless the road to the 2023 50-over World Cup remains open and the coming series may prove crucial to their respective qualification campaigns. With two matches to catch up from the 4th round of the League, this 8th trilateral series is a bumper edition. Oman currently lead the pack ahead of a crowded mid-table, but the Namibians and Emiratis will be looking to close down the gap, looking to secure a top-three finish on the table and book themselves a berth at the World Cup Qualifier.
Effectively replacing the World Cricket League Championship, CWC League 2 constitutes the second tier of the qualification structure for the 2023 World Cup. It features seven of the eight Associates that currently enjoy ODI Status – WCL Championship title-holders, the Netherlands, currently compete in the top-tier CWC Super League. Each of the seven sides play 36 ODIs over the course of the competition in the form of 21 six-match tri-lateral series, of which this is the 8th. Every team were thus to play three series at home and six abroad over the course of the league, giving a total of 12 home matches, 12 away matches and 12 played on neutral ground. However, the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said during the fourth such series (played in Oman and also featuring these three sides) forced the cancellation of the final two matches which the UAE and Namibia were to play against the hosts, and those two matches will be caught up in Windhoek this coming week.
What's at Stake
The news of the Super League's discontinuation after this cycle means that potential promotion is no longer a prospect for the League 2 Champions, but three berths at the World Cup Qualifier remain to be awarded. A podium finish thus gives teams an easier route to the 2023 World Cup, while the bottom four teams will have to compete with the winners of CWC Challenge Leagues A and B for the final two spots at the Global Qualifier. With the future of the CWC League structure or the format of any potential successor still unclear, final finishing positions in League 2 may well also have as-yet-unknowable ramifications for the teams' respective positions on the one-day ladder in post-2023 World Cup cycle. As things stand, Oman are in a commanding position 11 points clear at the top of the table, but have also played four more matches than any other team and have no home fixtures remaining. The UAE and Namibia are currently near the bottom of the pile on 8 and 7 points respectively, but having played just seven games each both remain in contention for a top three finish.
For hosts Namibia the series opener against Oman will be the first ODI they have played in almost two years, and only their second ever at home after the final of WCL Division 2 back in 2019 against the same opposition. It will be a challenge after two years concentrating on T20 to adjust to the longer format, and they will be without skipper Gerhard Erasmus, who is undergoing long-overdue surgery for the finger injury he carried through the T20 WC. They will also have to do without the services of David Wiese, their most valuable player at the World Cup, who is currently in Abu Dhabi with the Deccan Gladiators in the T10 League. The core of the World Cup side remains intact under stand-in skipper JJ Smit however, and will be confident in home conditions after a historic showing in the Emirates. A smattering of 50-over games against the Titans as well as South African and Zimbabwean development sides mixed into their T20 preparations of late will mean they're not entirely out of touch. Young keeper-bat Michau de Preez comes into the side, with finger spinner Mauritius Ngupita also added to the squad, but nonetheless the Namibian middle order looks somewhat fragile in the absence of Erasmus and Wiese. With a battery of left arm seamers, and a deep and dangerous batting line-up, the hosts have the look of a glass-cannon side on both fronts. Nonetheless their record on home soil is intimidating and they will back themselves to finish the series a good deal higher up the table.
The United Arab Emirateshave likewise had a long lay-off from ODI cricket, their last 50-over outing coming back in January at home to Ireland, where they split the two-match series 1-1. Having missed qualification for the T20 WC, their most recent competitive cricket also came against Ireland at home ahead of that tournament, when they bested the Irish 2-1 in a T20 series. Both results were encouraging for the Emirates, who are emerging from a rebuilding period after losing several players to a corruption scandal ahead of the Global T20 Qualifier in 2019. While the squad continues to feature a number of veteran players, such as Mohammad Boota and Kashif Daud, who have first class experience abroad, some of the stand-out players in recent series have beenplayers such as Basil Hameed, Chirag Suri and young legspinner Palaniapan Meiyappan, who like skipper Ahmed Raza, came up through the UAE's own cricket scene. Despite a lack of match practice, especially in the longer format, the UAE look to have emerged stronger from the crisis.
Current front-runners Oman will be particularly disappointed with the discontinuation of the Super League, looking well placed to hold on to the top spot in League 2. They are also the side with the most recent match experience in the format, having hosted two League 2 series immediately before of the T20 WC. With five wins from their seven completed matches in those series, Oman have a measure of momentum on their side. Skipper Zeeshan Maqsood and left arm quick Bilal Khan are joint lead wicket-takers in the competition thus far, while Aaqib Ilyas is the lead run scorer by some distance, averaging over 66 in the league. Ilyas and Jatinder Singh and newcomer Kashyap Prajapati, together make up a formidable top order, while Oman's wealth of spin all-rounders mean Maqsood will not lack for slow bowling options, and the seam attack, spearheaded by Khan, has generally done well in Namibia in the past. Questions remain around the middle order however, and the “Red Brigade” has continued to occasionally show a predilection for dramatic collapses. A podium finish is far from guaranteed despite Oman's early lead, and they will look to consolidate their position as the league nears the half-way point.
What to Expect
There's been little official international cricket at Wanderers in the past few years, the most recent fifty over cricket being the final WCL Division 2, with only a three match T20 series against Uganda since. Yet even back in 2018 it was clear that the ground had become more batting-friendly than it's previous reputation suggested, and scores in Namibia's unofficial games since have borne that out. Though at times still somewhat two-paced, the deck generally plays closer to that one would expect of Southern African pitches than in the past, with the ball coming on to the bat faster than what the Emiratis or Omanis will be used to. Some swing can often be found early on, though generally the shine goes off the ball quickly. The weather is expected to be clear and largely dry throughout the series, with temperatures rapidly climbing toward the low 30s as the morning progresses.
Namibia vs Oman – 26th November, 09:30 – Wanderers Ground, Windhoek
Namibia vs Oman – 27th November, 09:30 – Wanderers Ground, Windhoek
Namibia vs Oman – 29th November, 09:30 – Wanderers Ground, Windhoek
Namibia vs UAE – 30th November, 09:30 – Wanderers Ground, Windhoek
UAE vs Oman – 2nd December, 09:30 – Wanderers Ground, Windhoek
Namibia vs Oman – 4th December, 09:30 – Wanderers Ground, Windhoek
Namibia vs UAE – 5th December, 09:30 – Wanderers Ground, Windhoek
Oman vs UAE – 6th December, 09:30 – Wanderers Ground, Windhoek
Namibia:JJ Smit (c), Stephen Baard, Zane Green, Michael van Lingen, Craig Williams, Karl Birkenstock, Jan Nicol Loftie-Eaton, Michau du Preez, Jan Frylinck, Pikky Ya France, Bernard Scholtz, Ruben Trumpelmann, Ben Shikongo, Mauritius Ngupita.
Oman: Zeeshan Maqsood(c), Jatinder Singh, Kashyap Prajapati, Khawar Ali, Aqib Ilyas, Ayaan Khan, Naseem Khushi, Suraj Kumar, Mohammad Nadeem, Sandeep Goud, Nestor Dhamba, Fayyaz Butt, Kaleemullah, Bilal Khan.
UAE:Ahmed Raza (c), Basil Hameed, Chirag Suri, Vriitya Aravind, Muhammad Waseem, Chundangapoyil Rizwan, Muhammad Usman, Rohan Mustafa, Mohammad Boota, Kashif Daud, Akif Raja, Junaid Siddique, Zahoor Khan, Palaniapan Meiyappan