Pakistan and Afghanistan’s stunning off the charts start in Group 2 has pushed back the favourites India and New Zealand in the qualification process for the semi-final stage of the 2021 ICC World T20. However the Kiwis, headed by Kane Williamson, demolished Scotland in their previous encounter in Dubai to set up a crunching contest against Namibia, one that is a must-win for the BlackCaps in their quest to make the semi-finals.
On the other hand, Namibia faced Pakistan in their previous encounter, which really reflected the state of the two sides. Namibia were mighty impressive with the new ball and in the first ten overs with the ball but from there on, it was a landslide for them, as Pakistan, led by a Rizwan masterclass, piled on the misery in Abu Dhabi.
Yet it is a game that New Zealand can not take lightly, with their qualification still in their own hands, unlike India, who have to trust other results to work out in the way. So, what will make or break this encounter for either of the two sides?
Eagles’ battling form in the powerplay
One of the key reasons behind Namibia’s mixed success in the tournament has been their batting approach in the powerplay. Thus far, including the qualifier stage, the Eagles have scored at a strike-rate of 88 with field restrictions in play, averaging just 21.1 runs/wicket. Even if you take that out of the equation, they are the second-worst team in the competition in terms of balls/boundary in the first six overs, at 10.8. Only Bangladesh have performed poorer and that has indeed seen the Tigers exit the competition.
Another prime issue that will haunt Namibia is knowing that they will go up against the tough new-ball attack in the form of New Zealand, who have dominated the proceedings, with Trent Boult and Tim Southee. In the Super 12 stage, against Scotland, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Eagles posted powerplay scores of 29/1, 29/3 and 34/1, something that hurt their chances of winning the encounter.
Will they tinker their approach and go aggressively up-top, which will liberalize the likes of David Wiese and JJ Smit in the middle-overs, who can they play their own aggressive brand of cricket?
Martin Guptill’s rich vein of form
Coming into the global tournament, in eight T20I appearances this year, Martin Guptill’s form was one of the key points of discussion for the BlackCaps. The right-handed opener, at the top, scored 318 runs, averaging 39.75, at a strike-rate of 158.2, being one of the key parts of New Zealand’s success in the shortest format. His start to the competition was anything but fluent, scratchy at his best, with a 20-ball 17, where he scored three boundaries.
And his knock against India followed a similar pattern of play, quick start with three boundaries but then a struggle before he eventually holed out, for a 17-ball 20. With most of his runs coming in boundaries, his form was never the point of concern but it was his ability to carry on and make a substantial total.
Against Scotland, the opener did exactly what was required from him: to break the string of low scores. On a tough surface in Dubai, batting first, the opener got off to the best start possible and later went about constructing his innings in the best possible manner. Towards the death, it was obvious that he was going for the oblivion, with six boundaries and seven sixes, on a surface where the next best batter for the BlackCaps was Glenn Phillips, who scored a 37-ball 33. With the Eagles having shown potential in the encounter against Pakistan, it would be important for them to dismiss the opener early on.
Will David Wiese come up clutch?
24.8% of Namibia’s runs in this year’s competition have come off the blade of all-rounder David Wiese. The South African-born all-rounder has scored 185 runs, including multiple match-winning knocks for them Eagles in this year’s campaign. Against Pakistan, Wiese scored a 31-ball 43, striking at 138.71, with three boundaries and two sixes.
With this clash in Sharjah, conditions where it has been tough for batters to build their innings, the Eagles might need Wiese’s ton of T20 experience to aid them. The management might also be tempted to have the all-rounder up the order, considering the start that they get in the clash against New Zealand.
However, Wiese’s bowling ability has not quite been top-notch in the Super 12, with just two wickets in three games. That is indeed one part of his game which Namibia might need, in case they stand a chance of beating the BlackCaps.
After the opening round loss against Pakistan, New Zealand have figured out their perfect XI in the competition, with the inclusion of Adam Milne, after Lockie Ferguson’s injury. With two wins out of two, against India and Scotland, expect the BlackCaps to not make any late changes for the clash against the Eagles
New Zealand likely XI: Martin Guptill, Daryl Mitchell, Kane Williamson (c), James Neesham, Devon Conway (wk), Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Adam Milne, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult
Namibia, at one point in the encounter against Pakistan looked like they were going to upset the Asian side. But in the end, all they could do is reduce the loss margin to 45-runs. So expect no changes to their lineup, for the clash against New Zealand.
Namibia’s likely XI: Stephan Baard, Michael van Lingen, Craig Williams, Gerhard Erasmus (c), David Wiese, JJ Smit, Jan Nicol Loftie-Eaton, Ruben Trumpelmann, Zane Green (wk), Jan Frylinck, Ben Shikongo