The good ship Namibia

Notes on the knockout game

Namibia are a very interesting team. Compared to some associate sides, they have a very high basement, but a fairly low ceiling. Their superpower is a lot of smart cricketers who come together to make correct decisions out on the ground. They run hard, field well, back at the nonstriker end and their bowlers and batters follow plans with religious zealotry with a cricket fundamentalism. Other associates might have higher highs, but Namibia is a low mistake group. So once a few things went against Ireland in this game, Nambia just say back and waited for the game to come their way. Erasmus would say after the game, they run a pretty tight ship.

But there are cool little parts to Namibia's games that everyone doesn't know about. They have a lot of left-arm seamers, and this may not feel like a big deal, as everyone does now. But not in associate cricket, where traditionally southpaw seam was almost impossible to find. For instance, Scotland hasn't had a ball of left-arm seam recorded in five years. Ireland used to be that bad, until they found Josh Little since being a Test nation. 

Obviously, Pakistan has the highest, but Namibia is right there on their heels. And that's a real advantage for T20 cricket, and Namibia have had a lot of success with it. 

Unfortunately, their left-arm seam ran into two players who enjoy it. Kevin O'Brien scores slow versus it, but averages well over 30 last three years. And Paul Stirling loves it, as it allows him to hit over the offside which is his thing. The angle gives him the room he usually creates for himself. And those were the only two batters who caused Namibia any problems at all. Stirling feasted early on, and his innings was really the only thing that kept Ireland in the game. 

When Stirling was dismissed the Cricinfo forecast predictor had them as 55% chances of winning, by the end of the innings that had slipped to 14.91. Quite the drop. Of course that is not all Stirling. Ireland really struggled after the power play.

And as we saw in the IPL, teams at Sharjah are just struggling here. Ireland actually went pretty hard, but once they lost their openers, the air went out of the ball for them. But while it's ultimately cost them a place in the next round, this is the pattern here. The powerplay is slow, the middle is slower, and the death is the slowest, compared to normal T20 rates. 

Things got worse when they had to bowl. Paul Stirling is a pretty strong sixth bowler, the back-up Ireland needs with Simi Singh's form. So he couldn't bowl, but things got a lot worse later. There was also where the bails didn't come off when Erasmus was bowled, or not bowled. Which is never ideal. But there was another double blow later involving Erasmus. Mark Adair struck him right in front in the seventh over. Probably because Adair hurt himself, Ireland wasn't too focused on the review of the not out call. Not getting Erasmus was bad, as he was batting at the end, but the Adair injury was worse, as he would end up with 14 unbowled deliveries.

That means Kevin O'Brien had to bowl. He delivered 0 overs last year for Ireland, and two the year before.

Having your seventh bowler have to step up is never ideal. And as good as he was in the circumstances, the real problem was Adair's worth as a wicket-taker. He was the perfect bowler to defend a low total. As in all T20 over the last three years, he has the second-best average.

And a pretty good econ as well. Replacing that with your seventh choice medium pacer is just not great. 

And while Ireland missed out on the impact of Adair, Namibia's most important player starred with bat and ball. 

The big strapping all-round talent of David Wiese bowled his four overs for 22 runs, two of those he gave away in a bizarre last ball overthrows. He added two more wickets, plus also got a run out. And he then came out to bat on a wicket that no one other than Stirling could bat on, and he smashed 28 from 14, including the winning runs. Ireland had a slow end because of Wiese with the ball. And Namibia had a fast end also because of Wiese with the bat. He killed the death twice.  

But it's worth talking about how important this game is. A few years back I wrote about how pivotal a match between Hong Kong and the Netherlands was. With Hong Kong losing that game, it cost them a lot of money and since that period, this team just hasn't been the same since. They have disappeared from major cricket. Losing at associate cricket can mean that much. And winning this game could also be the opposite for Namibia. 

In 2003 they co-hosted the World Cup. Glenn McGrath took 7/15 against them. And they have kind of been a bit lost to major cricket since. Their cricket has been kept afloat by some incredible families who care, and a small community of cricket lovers. They ended up as a low end team in domestic South African cricket. But while they haven't had some of the other breakout stars of other teams, they come together so well as a unit. 

I know little about boats, but I gather everyone needs to do their job to make it all work. That's pretty much what this team does. They run a pretty tight ship, and in doing so, they might just have changed the future of Namibian cricket.  

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Something weird happened in this game when Kevin O'Brien took a catch after he was back peddling as they bowled the ball. Simon Doull highlighted that he may have - they never quite synced it up - been out of the circle at the time of the delivery, making it a no ball. That made me go on small a rant. 

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