While the world is busy reveling in the success of the four teams that have reached the knockout stage of the T20 extravaganza, there are two teams that have made the people stand up and take notice of their stupendous show in this tournament. Away from the glaring eyes of the media, Namibia and Scotland underwent grueling hours of sessions with an aim to get an opportunity in the qualifying round of this tournament and showcase their skills in the international arena.
22nd October 2021: The stage was set for a classic showdown as Namibia and Ireland locked horns in a virtual knockout game to seal their place in the Super 12s. A disciplined bowling performance helped the Eagles restrict the opposition for 125/8 in the 20 overs. In reply, two of the mainstays in the batting unit of Namibia, Gerhard Erasmus and David Wiese, stitched a 53-run partnership for the third wicket. As the South African all-rounder smashed the winnings runs, the team management of Namibia and the cricket frenzy fans erupted in joy as it marked a glorious chapter in their history.
One of the most experienced players in the squad, Craig Williams, summed up the emotions of the side in an exclusive conversation with Cricket.com after qualifying for the Super 12s. "It was extremely emotional for the whole team. It’s been a three-year process since Pierre de Bruyn, Albie Morkel joined us in rebuilding and getting new things in place. The moment was fantastic, but I think the emotion came from the amount of work that’s gone in the last three years, the amount of sacrifices, early hours in the gym, look weekends of play, long trips away from home. All came together when we realized we’ve done something extremely special for the country. " he said.
On the other hand, Scotland too created noises for the right reasons as they edged past Bangladesh in their opening game by six runs after a cliffhanger. After reeling at 53/6 in the first innings, not many people gave them a chance to post a substantial total on the board. However, Chris Greaves had other ideas as he single-handedly shouldered the responsibility of the side and smashed 45 off 28 deliveries to help Scotland post 140/9 in the first innings. With the ball, 2/19 in three overs to dent the middle order of the side and help Scotland record a famous win.
While most people might not be able to feel the emotions and the impact these matches have on the people back home, the veteran batter shared insights on the struggle and the happiness back home. "Namibia is a beautiful country. Our people have been through so much with drought and Covid and fires and recessions. This is just a beautiful story of how this small group of people have been able to compete with the giants. We hope all the people back home can take into their personal lives and just realize that dreams do come true, " Williams said.
The two sides started the tournament as the underdogs; however, they produced some iconic moments along the way that'll be etched in the memory of every fan. We take a look at some of the instances that grabbed eyeballs and got the cricketing pundits to stand and applaud their scintillating show.
Triple strikes in an over ft. Ruben Trumpelmann
Ruben Trumpelmann, one of the leading left-arm pacers, wreaked havoc in the first over against Scotland as he scalped three wickets in the first over to carve his name in the record books to become the first player to take three wickets in an over in the shortest format of the game. The 23-year old derailed the batting unit of the opposition with three wickets in the first four deliveries, courtesy of a brilliant display of fast bowling that propelled the Eagles to a resounding win.
Safyaan Sharif's opening burst
Sayfaan Sharif has been one of the go-to players for Kyle Coetzer in the powerplay. The right-arm pacer has been the leading wicket-taker in this phase and has four wickets at an economy rate of 4.6, which is the best among bowlers with a minimum of five overs. The 30-year old was instrumental in denting the Black Caps with two wickets in an over and helped Scotland restrict New Zealand's charge in the field restrictions.
Erasmus battles for the nation with a broken finger
The skipper of the Eagles endured a freak accident in the final warm-up match of the side that resulted in a broken finger. While he had the option of returning home and opting for surgery, the right-handed batter stayed with the team and guided them through the tournament with injections and pain killers. One of the reasons behind Namibia's rise at the international level, the 26-year old showcased his leadership skills and ensured the team does not face any difficulty due to his injury.
Mark Watt stifles oppositions in middle overs
Mark Watt displayed immense consistency in this edition of the World Cup and conceded at an economy rate of 5.5 in the middle overs among bowlers with a minimum of 10 overs. The left-arm spinner has been one of the most consistent bowlers for the Scotland outfit and stifled the opposition with his nagging line and length. Despite the results not going in their way, the 25-year old spun a web around the opponents and helped Scotland crawl their way back in the contest.
Impact of David Wiese
One of the notable additions to the Eagles side has been of David Wiese. With a wealth of experience at the international level, the all-rounder has been crucial in guiding the team on and off the field. Williams reflected on the role of Wiese and highlighted the impact he has created in the group by saying, "David has been fantastic for the team, he has played around the world, and he showed that when the pressure is on, he really steps up. It’s been fantastic to have someone of his caliber join our team."
The 36-year old has been a vital cog in the side and lends stability with his all-round prowess. He has scalped six wickets and scored 227 runs, which is among the three all-rounders who have scored 100+ runs and taken five-plus wickets.
"It’s just not what he is doing on the field, winning us games, it’s also what he is doing off the field as well – teaching the next generation of what it is all about. Because of someone like him, we will see the next young Namibians, the next David Wiese coming through the pipeline sometime soon, " Williams added.
The road ahead
With consistent performances in this edition of the tournament, the two sides have gained an automatic qualification in the first round of the next T20 World Cup by virtue of competing in the Super 12s. While the next world event is within a year in Australia, there are a few areas the two sides can improve in a short span of time.
Namibia will need to improve their batting in the powerplay and try to score quick rune to give the team a flying start in the field restrictions. Overall, the Eagles will need to find the gaps as they have scored a boundary every 11.2 balls, which is the worst among all the teams.
While bowling and restricting the opposition has been their strength, the Eagles will need to create opportunities to pick up wickets to dent the flow of runs. The spin bowling unit have picked up only two wickets in the Super 12 stage and have a ball per wicket ratio of 39, which is the worst among all the teams.
On the other hand, Scotland needs to build partnerships as the side has lost a wicket every 13.5 deliveries, which is the worst among all the teams in the Super 12s. With wickets tumbling at regular intervals, the batters have failed to attack the opposition bowling unit and scored at a run rate of six, which is the lowest.
While the team does not have the experience of playing against high-quality opposition frequently, they can take plenty of positives from their campaign in the world event and look to improve and get better in every department.
The performances of the two sides have been an inspiration for the people back home and augur well for the sport. As an ardent fan of the game, their heroics make me believe their best is yet to come.