Eagles qualify for T20 World Cup

JJ Smit won the man of the match award against Tanzania. Photo: Helge Schütz

The Namibian Richelieu Eagles booked their ticket to next year’s International Cricket Council (ICC) T20 World Cup in the West Indies and the United States with a 58-run victory against Tanzania at the Wanderers field yesterday.

It was their fifth consecutive victory at the ICC T20 World Cup Africa Qualifier, and even though the tournament is not over yet, the Eagles now have an insurmountable lead at the top of the log and will be crowned African champions on the final day tomorrow.

Their victory against Tanzania was once again clinical as the batters laid a solid foundation, while the bowlers turned the screws tighter to take control of the match.

After losing the toss and being sent in to bat, Namibia’s top order batters all made solid contributions.

Niko Davin and Michael van Lingen put on 37 for the first wicket, before the former was dismissed for 25 off 17 balls (4×4).

Gerhard Erasmus followed for 21 off 19, and when Van Lingen was out for 30 off 33 balls, they were three down for 82 in the 12th over.

Jan Frylinck (4) and David Wiese (1) were both dismissed cheaply, but JJ Smit picked up the run tempo with another powerful knock.

He hit four sixes and one four as he charged to 40 not out off 25 balls, and with Zane Green adding 18 and Nicol Loftie-Eaton 14 not out, they reached a total of 157/6.

Yalinde Nkanya (2/27) and Akhil Anil (2/22) were Tanzania’s best bowlers.

Namibia got an early breakthrough in Tanzania’s innings when David Wiese dismissed Ivan Selemani for a golden duck, and more wickets fell as Namibia’s bowlers, backed up by some great fielding and catches in the deep, turned up the pressure.

Amal Rajeevan offered some resistance for Tanzania, scoring 41 not out, but he received little support as they were eventually restricted to 99/6 as Namibia completed another resounding win.

Erasmus was Namibia’s top bowler, taking 2/17, while Wiese (1/21) and Bernard Scholtz (1/17) took one wicket each.

Namibia now lead with 10 points from five matches, and are assured of winning the trophy as well as one of the two qualifying spots for the 2024 T20 World Cup.

By so doing the Eagles have now qualified for their third successive T20 World Cup over the past three years, after making their debut in the United Arab Emirates in 2021, and then qualifying automatically for the 2022 event in Australia.

It underlines the strides this team and its back-up staff have made on the world stage, and Erasmus, the team’s captain, was quick to acknowledge all the role-players in their success.

“I’m very proud of our achievements, as a team and as an organisation. I think we’ve done ourselves proud with great discipline and good buy-in into the culture of what we do in the side, and I can’t thank everyone enough for all that buy-in – they deserve credit,” he said.

“It’s three world cups in a row for us, so it’s really an awesome feeling, and it’s awesome exposure – not only for the individual players, but also for the organisation – going to world events and exposing yourself to the best other organisations around the world, and I think we should be very proud of those achievements,” he said.

Erasmus also had a word of thanks for their fans.

“The fans are the ones we play for, the people behind the closed doors, the family and friends – they are the ones we hold close to our hearts when we play.

“I think all the guys will agree with me that those people behind the scenes, from the organisation to everyone at home, are the people who allow you to go onto the field and perform at your best.”

JJ Smit, who won the player-of-the-match award for a great all-round performance, said he was happy to have qualified for the T20 World Cup.

“I went in there with a bit of intent, but the tour has been fantastic. It’s a privilege to be part of it, and I’m just happy we have qualified. It’s a business-class flight to the West Indies, so I’m going to enjoy that,” he said.

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