It’s all or nothing for Ireland and Namibia as they clash in a bid to make it to the Super 12s. Sri Lanka have all but assured themselves of a finish on the top of the table in Group A, after comprehensive victories over Namibia and Ireland, while the Dutch have nothing but pride to play for in their final group match of the T20 World Cup.
Two years ago, the Netherlands won the T20 World Cup Qualifiers but are the first team to crash out of the underway tournament. Incidentally, the finalists in that competition, Papua New Guinea (PNG) too are on course to face a similar fate.
The action now shifts to Sharjah for the first time in the tournament, where runs have been hard to come by in the recent past, with 137 being the average first innings score in T20s this year.
Lack of matches
Since winning the Qualifiers, the Dutch had played a grand total of five T20 Internationals (T20I) before the T20 World Cup, all coming in 2021, with the last one being in April against Nepal. As a result, head coach Ryan Campbell admitted that he was not sure of his playing XI for the first game against Ireland, further adding that the Qualifiers were the last time a full-strength Netherlands side had taken field.
That has led to a few poor decisions on the selection front. Tim van der Gugten missing the first match ahead of Brandon Glover was one such instance. Also, in the second match against Namibia, Ben Cooper, Netherlands’ highest run-getter in T20Is was dropped after he was run-out in the first game against Ireland.
Skipper Pieter Seelaar did not bowl his quota of four overs against Namibia, finishing with 1 for 8 in two overs and instead relied on part-timer Bas de Leede to bowl, which backfired. With Fred Klaassen bowling an excellent spell, he did not find support from anyone at the other end – which is something the Dutch have to rectify.
We can expect more changes in the Netherlands XI for the final game of the competition against Sri Lanka. Max O’Dowd who has scored fifties in both matches so far certainly will not be one of them.
Netherlands' likely XI vs Sri Lanka: Max O'Dowd, Stephan Myburgh, Ben Cooper, Colin Ackermann, Ryan ten Doeschate, Scott Edwards (wk), Roelof van der Merwe, Pieter Seelaar (c), Logan van Beek, Timm van der Gugten/Paul van Meekeren, Fred Klaassen.
Nothing to lose
Having won two in two, Sri Lanka will look to play this match with the utmost freedom given that they have already qualified for the Super 12s. While their seven-wicket win over Namibia was impressive, they will be happier with the way they bounced back from 8 for 3 against Ireland to post a commendable 171. With the likes of Pathum Nissanka and Wanindu Hasaranga shining with the bat, it gives the side a little more depth. Also, the teams have not been able to handle the pace of Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara, who have clocked in excess of 140 KMPH consistently.
Added to that, the wily spinners Maheesh Theekshana and Hasaranga have bamboozled the batsmen. We can expect them to come good once again and trouble the Dutch batters. With the googlies, Hasaranga has been deadly in T20I cricket in the recent past.
This could also be a good opportunity – perhaps the only chance Sri Lanka will get in the tournament – to test their bench strength with the likes of Dhananjaya de Silva, Akila Dananjaya, Binura Fernando and Charith Asalanka waiting on the wings. Dinesh Chandimal’s place in the XI is certainly in jeopardy having registered scores of 6, 5, 13, 18, 0 and 5 in his last six T20 innings. Sri Lanka might consider giving Asalanka a go in his place. Resting one of the fast bowler too might be a good ideal, given that the Lankan Lions have already booked their place in the next round.
Sri Lanka's likely XI vs Netherlands: Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Perera (wk), Dinesh Chandimal/Charith Asalanka, Avishka Fernando, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dasun Shanaka (c), Chamika Karunaratne, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dushmantha Chameera, Maheesh Theekshana, Lahiru Kumara.
Winner takes all
Only one of Namibia or Ireland will make it to the next round. After a shaky start against Sri Lanka, Namibia bounced back to chase down 165 against the Netherlands with David Wiese chipping in with the ball and with the bat. He scored his first-ever T20I fifty to guide his side home. His skipper Gerhard Erasmus, one of the best batters in the tournament, also played his part. While the Eagles have some momentum going into the game, Ireland suffered a demoralising loss at the hands of Sri Lanka after a bright start.
Ireland though have played good cricket in parts and it is just a question of putting them all together in one match. If they can do that, Namibia may not have a chance.
Senior players like Paul Stirling, Kevin O’Brien and Andy Balbirnie will have to take up more responsibility with the bat, while as a bowling unit, they will have to be a little more consistent. Simi Singh had a game to forget against Sri Lanka, but he has enough quality and experience to bounce back in this game. A change in venue from Abu Dhabi to Sharjah could also work in his favour, given off-spinners have picked up 12.19% of the wickets in T20s this year, which is the second-best among spinners after leg-spinners (13%).
Stirling has been a lone warrior with the bat for Ireland this year, having accumulated over 400 runs, while O’Brien and Balbirnie have just not been as authoritative.
There is a yawning gap between Stirling and the rest of the batting line-up, which is something the Irish will have to reduce.
The winner of the Ireland-Namibia match are most likely to finish second in Group A, which will mean they will go into Super 12s in the same group as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and New Zealand. Which team will that be?
Michael van Lingen was added to Namibia’s XI in the last match to strengthen the batting, but was not needed and similarly, we could see Pikky Ya France return to the XI ahead of leg-spinner Jan Nicol Loftie-Eaton, in a bid to strengthen the bowling department.
Namibia's likely XI vs Ireland: Stephan Baard, Zane Green (wk), Craig Williams, Gerhard Erasmus (c), David Wiese, JJ Smit, Michael van Lingen, Jan Frylinck, Pikky Ya France, Ruben Trumpelmann, Bernard Scholtz
For the Irish, they might consider going back to leg-spinner Benjamin White or left-arm spinner George Dockrell for his match. The latter would be a better option given that he can bat in the top five as well.
Ireland's likely XI vs Namibia: Paul Stirling, Kevin O’Brien, Andrew Balbirnie (c), Gareth Delany, Curtis Campher, Harry Tector, Neil Rock (wk), Simi Singh, Mark Adair, Joshua Little, Craig Young/George Dockrell