After Ireland’s match with the Netherlands opens Group A of the First Round, day two action of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup concludes with Namibia making their debut in the tournament, taking on 2014 winners Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi.
While today’s combatants may have contrasting histories in the tournament, both will traverse unchartered territory when walking onto the ground at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
As Namibia end an 18-year wait to return to global tournament action, Sri Lanka enters at the First Round stage of the 16-team tournament for the first time, and will face a new challenge of high-pressure preliminary action. To add intrigue to the match-up, the pair face off for the first time in T20I cricket.
By all means favoured to progress in spite of a tricky Group, Dasun Shanaka’s men still need two victories from three matches to meet the minimum expectations of reaching the Super 12 phase.
It may be too early to speculate on the prospects of Sri Lankan shock defeats, but the nerves of pressure-filled First Round cricket bring a new challenge; an obstacle Namibia know all too well.
Led by Gerhard Erasmus and coached by Pierre de Bruyn, Namibia have passed every test in the last three years, attaining ODI status at World Cricket League 2 on the 50-over front, before booking a ticket for the T20 World Cup.
Veterans Jean-Pierre Kotze and Zhivago Groenewald called time on their Namibian careers before their T20 World Cup debut, though the Eagles have been bolstered by the inclusion of David Wiese, who boasts a career of almost 270 T20 appearances. A star of the T20 league circuit, Wiese made over 20 appearances in the format for South Africa, last playing for the Proteas in 2016.
With a high turnover of players since the last T20 World Cup, and topsy-turvy form over the past 12 months, Sri Lanka are difficult to assess. Two 3-0 series defeats to England and South Africa sandwich a 2-1 victory over India, with 30 players featuring for the side in 2021. Arriving in the Gulf late in comparison to their early-round adversaries, a provisional squad has been whittled down to a 15-player group, though a spine of a quality team needs to lock themselves in early to negotiate a competitive First Round Group A.
- Match: Sri Lanka v Namibia
- Time: 18:00 local time on Monday 18 October
- Venue: Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi
With a number of new faces, there is an opportunity for a number of Sri Lanka’s players to step up for their country, though the strengths lie in their middle-over batting and their numerous options on the bowling side.
Wanindu Hasaranga sits in second on the MRF Tyres ICC T20I bowling rankings, averaging 13.15 with the ball at a rate of less than a run a ball. Hasaranga will no doubt play a role with the bat, currently going at a strike rate of 131.34 in T20I cricket.
Possible Sri Lanka XI: Avishka Fernando, Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Perera, Charith Asalanka, Dasun Shanaka (c), Wanindu Hasaranga, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dushmantha Chameera, Chamika Karunaratne, Akila Dananjaya, Maheesh Theekshana
Namibia’s depth will give Pierre de Bruyn and his coaching team much to consider, with the final spot in the team likely to be picked based on the Abu Dhabi conditions. Michael van Lingen, Nicol Loftie-Eaton and Michau du Preez will take the last spot in the lower half of the batting order, while Pikky Ya France’s off-spin may be picked over the extra pace option of Karl Birkenstock.
Possible Namibia playing XI: Stephen Baard, Zane Green, Craig Williams, Gerhard Erasmus, JJ Smit, David Wiese, Michael van Lingen/Nicol Loftie-Eaton, Jan Frylinck, Ruben Trumpelmann, Pikky Ya France, Bernard Scholtz
Joining Gerhard Erasmus and complimenting David Wiese as the second half of Namibia's self-proclaimed "Bomb Squad", JJ Smit comes into the tournament in a rich vein of batting form, plundering opposition with boundaries all around the wicket. A good player of spin, Smit has an uncanny ability to manipulate his shots into gaps in the field, and is capable of going inside-out on the cover drive. Should the Sri Lankans' opt for pace, Smit is quick on the short ball, and the "Smit can hit" hashtag could fill your feed if he gets going.
Smit forms part of the left-arm pace bowling trio Gerhard Erasmus has at his disposal, and possesses an array of slower ball and off-speed variations.
For Sri Lanka, Wanindu Hasaranga holds the key. Moving into a more-important batting role in the side, Hasaranga could well be his side's innings glue should early wickets fall, and has developed a power game for late-over exploits.
It's Hasaranga's bowling though that sets him apart from most in the international game. Going at just 6.57 in his 25 T20Is to day, Hasaranga takes a wicket for his country every 14.10 deliveries, stifling his foes in the middle overs.
Expert Dream11 Fantasy tips
Captaincy pick - Wanindu Hasaranga
The No.2 ranked T20I bowler in the world has to be your top choice for captain in this match. The Sri Lanka leg-spinner has been the go-to man for his country in the limited-overs format for the last couple of years. He has an impressive bowling strike rate of 14.1 in 23 T20I innings and can also be utilised as a pinch hitter as well, making him all the more valuable.
Must-have - Craig Williams
Namibia’s in-form top-order batsman Craig Williams is a must-have against Sri Lanka. He has notched up 259 runs in 6 T20Is at a strike rate of 141.53 in 2021. He is also more than handy with the ball, with a bowling strike rate of 19.3 in 13 T20I innings.
What they said
Gerhard Erasmus: "We want to get going now. I think we've played a lot of cricket leading up to this point. All the way back from April we've really played lots of T20 cricket and it’s time to now get out to the real thing.”
“Obviously as a team you do your analysis work but at the end of the day we trust our processes. Also, it’s a white ball so whoever bowls it, it’s got to be hit, so we haven’t spent too much energy trying to harp on one or two players.”
Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur on needing a good start in the First Round: “It's really important. This is a bit of a cutthroat little qualifier, you've got three games and you've got to hit the ground running without a doubt."
"I think we've prepared really well, we had 10 days in Colombo as well and then against Oman (in warm-up matches) it was great for us and allowed us to look at different combinations.”