New Delhi: Namibia became the final team to qualify for the Super 12 stage of the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, after recording an eight-wicket win over Ireland, a full member cricketing nation ranked seven places above it.
With Sri Lanka beating Netherlands in the final game of the first round, Namibia’s win means that they will join Scotland, who qualified Thursday with a perfect record after beating tournament co-hosts Oman by eight wickets, in India’s Super 12 group.
This was not only Namibia’s first ever win at a major ICC tournament but also the first time they and Scotland qualified for the main draw of the T20 World Cup.
As a result, India’s Super 12 opponents will be Afghanistan, Namibia, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Scotland, with the Men in Blue’s first game against Pakistan Sunday.
The other two qualifiers from the first round are Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, who will join Australia, England, South Africa and West Indies in the other Super 12 group.
Adapting to the Sharjah pitch
While Namibia’s all-round bowling performance on an expectedly challenging Sharjah pitch gave them the ascendancy, it was ultimately captain Gerhard Erasmus’ half-century and allrounder David Wiese’s boundary hitting that finished off any Irish hopes, allowing the African nation to coast to an eight-wicket victory, chasing a target of 126, with nine balls to spare.
The match began with Ireland’s veteran openers Paul Stirling and Kevin O’Brien repeatedly punishing the unthreatening Namibian bowling and racing to 55-0 in the powerplay of first six overs.
The tide, however, turned in the eighth over after senior left-arm spinner Bernard Scholtz dismissed Stirling on 38 off 24 balls. O’Brien fell the very next over, and for the rest of the innings, Ireland’s batting went from aggressive and dominating to sedate and bereft of ideas.
The Namibian seam bowlers appeared to use the same tactics as IPL teams did on the slow and low Sharjah wicket.
Not only did they deliver changes of pace, cutters and slower balls into the surface but they also outsmarted the Irish middle order by employing the odd slower ball yorker which was an effective wicket-taker.
As a result, Ireland crawled to a run-a-ball total, setting Namibia a target of 126.
Namibia’s openers started far slower than their Irish counterparts, scoring only 25 by the end of the powerplay.
But failure to make the most of the pitch conditions and injury to pacer Mark Adair in his second over meant that Ireland’s bowlers were always on the back foot.
This allowed Green and Erasmus to continue playing cautiously and keep wickets in hand before Erasmus and Wiese began hitting boundaries at will in the back end of the innings.
Scotland’s 100 per cent record in Muscat
Scotland had attracted accolades for their six-run win over first round heavyweights Bangladesh Sunday, as leg spinning allrounder Chris Greaves put in a landmark performance.
But in their second game against Papua New Guinea, Scotland were nearly guilty of making the same mistakes Bangladesh had made two days earlier, as they allowed PNG to recover from 35-5 to 148 all out.
Although Scotland won both games, their net run rate was inferior to that of Oman and Bangladesh, which meant they had to beat Oman as well to ensure qualification.
The Scots, however, dispelled any notions of a choke, thanks to a third consecutive well-drilled team bowling performance restricting Oman to 122.
Pacer Josh Davey starred with figures of 3 for 25, but the rest of the attack put in strong supporting roles, including left-arm spinner Mark Watt, who has gone for an economy rate of under six in all three games.
The Scottish top order showed few signs of nerves or poor form against Oman, as captain Kyle Coetzer led the charge with 41 off 28.
Matthew Cross and Richie Berrington took Scotland home, as the latter sealed the victory with a six over deep midwicket.
It would be easy to say that on paper, India’s group is much easier since they will face Associate nations instead of Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.
But the first round has shown the potential Kyle Coetzer’s Scotland and Gerhard Erasmus’ Namibia hold to cause an upset.
After playing against archrivals Pakistan Sunday, India will face New Zealand in Dubai, Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi before finishing off against the Associate sides, with both games taking place in Dubai.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)
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