Namibia win cliffhanger of a series

Bernard Scholtz in action for Namibia. Photo: Helge Schütz

The Namibia Richelieu Eagles clinched the Castle Lite T20 series against Zimbabwe in dramatic style with an eight-run victory in the final match on Monday. 

With the series on a knife-edge at two-all, the final match once again went down to the wire, with Zimbabwe needing nine runs for victory off the final over, but Tangeni Lungameni caught Ainsley Ndlovu in the deep off Jan Frylinck’s bowling to dismiss the whole team for 93. 

Earlier, Namibia were restricted to a modest 101, but their bowlers, led by JJ Smit and Bernard Scholtz defended it superbly as the match edged to an enthralling conclusion.

It was a historic victory and series – the first time that a full-strength Zimbabwean team had visited Namibia, while it was Namibia’s second consecutive series victory against their southern African neighbours, after they also won 3-2 in Bulawayo last year. 

The win underlined the improvement of the Eagles in recent years, as they are now ranked 13th in the world in T20 cricket – two places behind Zimbabwe, and ahead of the Netherlands and Scotland, amongst others.

Zimbabwe captain Craig Irvine said it was a difficult wicket to bat on. 

“We thought that 100 was definitely chaseable, but that wicket was quite a tough one to bat on … We’d probably like a little bit more pace on the wicket, but conditions are quite hot and dry here so it’s pretty much expected,” he said.

The series served as preparation for the upcoming Africa T20 World Cup qualifier that Namibia will host from 20 November to 1 December and Ervine said it had been good preparation.

“It’s been a good series, a tight series, as it was the last time when Namibia came to Zimbabwe, and the preparation has been really good, so now I’m looking forward to a bit of time off and hopefully we can come back in a couple of weeks and put in some good performances,” he said.

Namibia captain Gerhard Erasmus said the series had served its purpose. 

“Both these sides came here with a purpose to play good, hard international cricket and when a series goes down to 3-2 into the last over, I think that’s what we got and those pressure situations will stand us in good stead for the upcoming tournament. 

“You want to compete against the best and you want that preparation to be at the highest level and I certainly think that we achieved those goals throughout the series,” he said.

In a low-scoring match, Zimbabwe sent Namibia in to bat and made an early breakthrough when Michael van Lingen was dismissed for a third-ball duck. 

Erasmus also went cheaply, for 6, and when Niko Davin and Jan Frylinck were both dismissed for 19 in quick succession, Namibia were struggling at 46/4, with a bit more than half their overs remaining. 

JJ Smit and Zane Green regained the initiative with a 46-run fifth wicket stand, before Green was out for 17, while Smit scored 29 valuable runs off 28 balls (1×4, 2×6), before the whole side was dismissed for 101. 

Sikandar Raza was Zimbabwe’s top bowler, taking four wickets for 24 runs, while Tendai Chatara took 3/7.

In Zimbabwe’s innings, Smit made an early breakthrough, dismissing Innocent Kaia (1) and Craig Ervine (0) in the second over, while Bernard Scholtz maintained the pressure with the wickets of Wessly Madhevere (4) and Raza (2), as Zimbabwe stumbled to 14/4. 

Ryan Burl (19), Clive Madande (16) and Luke Jongwe (24) led a Zimbabwean fightback, but Smit and Frylinck finished off the tail in the final two overs as Zimbabwe fell eight runs short of the target. 

For Namibia, Smit took three wickets for 14 runs to win the player of the match award, while Scholtz took 3/11. 

Zimbabwean all-rounder Raza won the player of the series award after scoring 177 runs at an average of 44,25 and taking four wickets for 141 runs at an average of 35,25.

Namibia’s Niko Davin was the top batter, scoring 203 runs at an average of 50,75, followed by Raza, with Michael van Lingen third on 129 runs at an average of 25,80.

Namibia captain Erasmus was the top bowler, taking nine wickets for 96 runs (average of 10,66), followed by Zimbabwean medium-pacer Richard Ngarava (five wickets, average 7,80) and Smit (five wickets, average 17,20).

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