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After a frantic quadruple header on 31 January, Thursday saw only a single match being played, but the play-off clash between Scotland and Namibia in Benoni was not short on action.
In a thrilling contest that went down to the wire, Scotland secured a victory against Namibia, closing out their ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2024 in positive fashion.
The decisive factor in the closely fought encounter came courtesy of Scotland’s Bahadar Esakhiel, whose explosive innings took the target beyond Namibia’s reach amid a tense finish.
Scotland beat Namibia by 3 runs in Benoni
Opting to bat first after winning the toss, Scotland's day did not start as they had hoped, losing the early wickets of Adi Hegde and Alec Price in the early stages.
Hegde became the first casualty, succumbing to a splendid delivery by Jack Brassell in the second over. The ball sharply rose from the length, leaving Hegde to awkwardly prod an edge straight to the keeper Johannes Visagie behind the stumps.
Junior Kariata joined in on the action in the very next over as Price's clumsy attempt at a pull shot found the top edge into the hands of Du Plessis running in from third.
Scotland found themselves in a precarious situation, but once more Jamie Dunk and captain Owen Gould teamed up to steer them out of trouble - much like they had done in their previous match against hosts South Africa. The pair made a subdued start to their partnership with fielding restrictions in place - the Powerplay fetching only two boundaries.
It wasn’t until the 14th over that the shackles were broken when Gould expertly dispatched two boundaries off the bowling of Zacheo van Vuuren. The floodgates opened thereafter with Dunk too getting in on the act with consecutive boundaries off Hanro Badenhorst.
Just as the partnership started to look dangerous for Namibia, the wily spin of Peter-Daniel Blignaut brought the breakthrough. While trying to maintain the aggression, Gould's (35) swipe was misjudged, and the ball popped up to Junior Kariata at short third.
Uzair Ahmad joined Dunk at the crease and ensured that the wicket did not derail the innings, making his intent clear by striking the second ball of his innings to the boundary rope.
The next three overs saw a boundary being scored in each, while Dunk reached a much-deserved half-century off 66 balls.
After a flurry of boundaries, Gerhard Janse van Rensburg and Blignaut regained some control to keep the Scottish pair quiet. As the boundaries dried up, Scotland were compelled to attack, which resulted in both the set batters Dunk (76) and Ahmad (36) falling in a space of four overs.
After sending half the Scottish side back to the pavilion with 13 overs to go, Namibia initially had the upper hand but were pushed back by the Bahadar Esakhiel show.
Esakhiel got going with a six, nailing a pull shot behind square for the first maximum of Scotland’s innings. More boundaries followed, setting up a big finish in the final two overs.
Esakhiel dispatched Janse van Rensburg for two boundaries in the penultimate over and brought up his fifty off 48 balls.
The final over saw more fireworks with the 18-year-old smashing Van Vuuren for four maximums. The pacer erred in his line, and Esakhiel cleverly manoeuvred across the stumps to deposit each maximum behind square in almost identical fashion. The late fireworks propelled Scotland to 251/6.
Like Scotland, Namibia too faltered early on in their innings. The first six overs only fetched 11 runs, leading to a rash drive from Johannes de Villiers, who managed to edge the ball off Ibrahim Faisal to second slip.
Faisal struck once more in his next over, removing Van Rensburg with Alec Price once again making a smart catch at slip.
The Eagles’ resurgence began after the end of the Powerplay with Van Vuuren taking the attack to Nikhil Koteeswaran with consecutive boundaries.
However, Scotland bowlers continued to keep Namibia at bay with brilliant bowling. Namibia too adopted a cautious approach, accumulating occasional boundaries without taking undue risks to preserve their wickets. Gradually, the partnership between Visagie and Van Vuuren flourished, and Visagie reached a well-paced fifty with a boundary.
The third-wicket stand was worth 115 runs when Hegde bowled a brilliant arm-ball to break through and remove Visagie for 69.
With the required rate surpassing 7 runs per over and 15 overs remaining, Van Vuuren and captain Alex Volschenk unleashed big shots. The duo added 60 runs swiftly, during which Van Vuuren reached his fifty.
The aggressive approach led to the downfall of Volschenk, who was caught in the deep while attempting to clear the boundary against Qasim Khan. One wicket brought two for Qasim as Brassell, unable to capitalize on a tempting full-toss, mis-hit into the hands of mid-off.
Needing 38 off the final three overs, Blignaut eased some nerves in the Namibian dugout with a four to start the over off. The penultimate over began in a similar fashion, with the 18-year-old bringing out two audacious shots for four.
Assigned the task of limiting Namibia to 16 runs in the last over, Ibrahim Faisal, despite conceding a couple of boundaries which included five wides from the fourth ball, displayed remarkable composure in the crucial moments of the game.
With six required off three balls, the right-arm pacer only gave away two runs while accounting for the wicket of Van Vuuren (86) as Scotland won by three runs.
Player of the Match Bahadar Esakhiel was pleased to put in a match-winning performance to end the tournament on a high.
“It felt good. I had a good training session yesterday. Obviously, the tournament hasn’t gone the way we wanted, but it was good to get some runs on the board today.”