While Pakistan and Namibia are at the opposite ends of cricketing prowess, the journey of the two sides in the T20 World Cup has been nothing short of magical. Despite having their campaigns riddled with roadblocks even before the commencement of the tournament, both teams produced inspiring tales of success for the world to stand up and take notice.
The lead up to this mega event was far from ideal for Pakistan as a visiting New Zealand side pulled out hours before their much-awaited series due to security reasons. Despite being a formidable unit, not many reckoned they could progress to the semi-finals. However, in the three games played thus far, the Green Army has showcased tremendous grit and determination to defy odds to be described as a firm favourite to reach the final.
On the other hand, Namibia have enjoyed a fairytale run in this competition. Despite going down to Sri Lanka in the opening match of the qualifying round, the Eagles bounced back and entered the Super 12 stage of the competition for the first time in their history. The never-say-die attitude and the ability to keep producing spirited performances have been the highlight of Namibia's campaign in this competition. However, with an aim to keep their campaign alive, they face an uphill task against Pakistan on Tuesday (November 2) at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Opening woes for Namibia
One of the glaring issues for Namibia in the tournament has been the inconsistency of their batting unit. While there is a lack of stability at the top of the order with the constant chopping and changing of the opening combination, the Eagles have also been guilty of being over-cautious in their approach in the powerplay.
Namibia have scored at a run rate of 5.2 in the first six overs and have scored a boundary every 11.3 deliveries, which is the second-worst among all the teams in the competition. The Eagles will have their task cut out as they face in-form Shaheen Afridi with the new ball. The fast bowler is known to swing the ball back into the right-hander and has an art of picking up wickets upfront.
Decoding Pakistan's dominance with the bat
While Namibia has struggled with their opening combination, Pakistan have dominated proceedings thanks to the opening impetus provided by skipper Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan. Rizwan is the first player to amass 1000 runs in this format since 2020 and Babar is second on this list with 927 runs, including 11 half-centuries, which is the most by any player since 2020. The duo have been in sublime form and have scored the bulk of the runs for the side in T20Is.
However, the Eagles can take solace from the fact that Babar has an average of 34.7 and a strike rate of 106 at this venue, which is considerably low compared to 67.8 and a strike rate of 121 at Dubai.
Can Jan Frylinck counter Asif Ali threat?
Jan Frylinck has been the leading wicket-taker for Namibia in T20Is. The 27-year old have been the mainstay of the bowling unit for several years, and Namibia would hope for the premier quick to shoulder the responsibility and create inroads in the opposition batting unit. The left-arm pacer has been the standout bowler for the side in the death overs and has picked up 19 wickets at an economy rate of 6.7.
Frylinck will be crucial to the fortunes of the side in the back end of the innings to counter the threat posed by Asif Ali. The right-hander has a strike rate of 306 against pacers among players with a minimum of 30 runs in the tournament and will be riding high on confidence after his heroics against Afghanistan in the last game.
What is at stake?
While Pakistan have been the dominant team in this group and are the favourites to get over the line in this encounter. The Eagles are one of the most improved sides in recent times and have produced spirited performances. With one win and a loss in the Super 12, Namibia will need to win this encounter to keep their hopes alive in the competition. On the other hand, a win for Pakistan will seal their place in the semi-finals of the competition.
Pakistan: Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Babar Azam (c), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Haris Rauf, Shaheen Afridi
Namibia: Craig Williams, Zane Green (wk), Gerhard Erasmus (c), David Wiese, Michael van Lingen, JJ Smit, Jan Frylinck, Pikky Ya France, Jan Nicol Loftie-Eaton, Ruben Trumpelmann, Bernard Scholtz