Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Power-packed Namibia hope to make T20 WC debut to remember. David Wiese will be a key figure in Namibia's middle order.
David Wiese will be a key figure in Namibia's middle order.
Namibia are set to make their debut at the T20 WC, and their first appearance at any top-tier ICC event in almost two decades, fielding what is unarguably the strongest side they have ever put out. A batting line-up that boasts more out-and-out hitters than any of their rivals, as well as eventual player of the tournament Gerhard Erasmus, saw them bounce back from a shaky start in the Qualifier to claim their berth two years ago, and since then they have looked in exceptional form. The difficulties posed by the global pandemic did not prevent Namibia from arranging a busy home season, claiming series wins against South African and Zimbabwean development teams as well as a strong Titans side in the lead-up to the tournament. While the low and slow conditions expected at Sharjah and Abu Dhabi will not ideally suit Namibia, those familiar with the history of Namibian grounds will know that the Eagles are eminently adaptable and hardly unfamiliar with sticky conditions.
Despite the early retirements of promising left-arm spinner Zhivago Groenewald and the big-hitting JP Kotze, this Namibia squad looks more balanced than that which contested the Qualifier. The addition of former South Africa international David Wiese (the recruitment of Wiese, who holds Namibian nationality through his father, has been a long-held ambition for Namibia) lends experience and stability to a middle-order that had been more dangerous than dependable, as well as a right-arm option to a left-arm-heavy pace attack. The emergence of Nicol Loftie-Eaton as a fast leg spin bowling all-rounder meanwhile fills the final gap in what now looks both a dangerous and flexible Namibian squad. Keeper Zane Green has moved up the order to fill Kotze's role as belligerent foil to the steadier Stephen Baard, with the veteran Craig Williams in good touch at three followed by skipper Erasmus, himself arguably the most capable all-round bat in Associates cricket in recent years. Erasmus also offers an off-spin option to complement the experienced slow southpaw Bernhard Scholtz, with Pikky Ya France a dedicated offspin option if conditions suit. The seam attack is more varied than the shared label left-arm fast-medium suggests, with Ruben Trumpelmann offering genuine pace, JJ Smit more troubling bounce, and Jan Frylinck variation and swing if on offer. Smit's evolution as a big-hitting lower-order bat in recent years has also leant Namibia counter-punching power in the lower order, regularly shifting the momentum in Namibia's favour late in the innings.
Dangerman: JJ Smit began his career as a left-arm quick before injury forced him to concentrate temporarily on batting, an incident he may now regard as fortuitous given his subsequent transformation to the lower-middle-order punisher. He has returned to resume his place as a key cog in the Namibian attack, but it is his lower-order batting that has introduced the chant “Smit can Hit” to associate fans around the world – a phrase that may yet gain broader familiarity in the coming weeks.
Rising Star: Jan Nicol Loftie-Eaton has long been a fringe figure since coming through the Namibian youth system, but his exploits both with bat and ball in domestic T20 and during the recent series in Windhoek has put him in serious contention for a starting spot. Bowling en-vogue fast legspin and a genuine threat with the bat, the 20-year-old Loftie-Eaton looks the sort of player every development manager is looking for.
Key question: David Wiese's recruitment after a long courtship looks to be the final piece of the puzzle for Namibia, bringing middle-order experience and the ability to find boundaries in the absence of pace on the ball as well as a right-arm seamer with franchise experience, capable of defending the death overs. That Wiese hasn't quite replicated his CPL form in Namibian colours thus far will thus be an area of concern, but if he comes good when the tournament starts Namibia look serious contenders for the Super 12s, and a potential banana-skin even for top teams.
Strengths: Namibia's record coming into the tournament makes them the only side in this group with unambiguous momentum. Erasmus' men are in the habit of winning and will be confident where their opponents will likely be wary. Add to that a deep batting line-up boasting several bats capable of clearing the ropes from ball one and a more rounded bowling attack than they took to the qualifiers, Namibia look entirely capable of scoring upsets, and a place in the Super 12s, while a remarkable achievement, looks entirely within their grasp.
Weaknesses: Namibia's recent success has come largely at home, and with conditions at Abu Dhabi and Sharjah likely to suit them less even than those at the qualifier, they will have to adapt quickly. The batting is at its most destructive with pace on the ball, while the seam attack is well-balanced it arguably lacks the express pace or variation to trouble world-class batters.
Past Highs and Lows: Making their tournament debut at this edition, taking their first turn on the global stage since the 2003 World Cup will itself be a high for Namibian cricket. By the same token, their drubbing of Oman at the 2019 Qualifier to secure their berth must also count among the high points for Namibia in the format. Conversely, their near-misses at the 2015 Qualifier against first Ireland and then Oman adding to their failures at previous editions of the Qualifier will be memories Erasmus' men will be hoping to banish.
Sri Lanka vs Namibia – Abu Dhabi (Sheikh Zayed) -18:00, Monday, October 18 (D/N)
Netherlands vs Namibia – Abu Dhabi (Sheikh Zayed) -14:00, Wednesday, October 20
Namibia vs Ireland – Sharjah -14:00, Friday, October 22