Namibian cricket moving up

Jan Frylinck in action for Namibia. File photo

Namibian cricket had a great year in 2023, with the Namibian Richelieu Eagles reaching new heights on the field of play, while Cricket Namibia’s continued to rake the awards in off it. 

The Eagles capped the year off in style when they won the ICC T20 World Cup Africa Qualifier in Windhoek in November to qualify for the 2024 T20 World Cup in the West Indies and the United States.

It is their third successive T20 World Cup after they qualified for the 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE and the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia, while their improvement was also noticable on the world rankings as Namibia climbed to an all time high of 11th in the world in the T20 format by the end of November. 

At the T20 Africa Qualifier, Namibia were in clinical form, winning all their matches in fine style. 

They got off to a great start when they beat Zimbabwe by seven wickets on 22 November. 

Namibia restricted Zimbabwe to 132/8 with JJ Smit taking 3/24 and then comfortably reached the target for the loss of three wickets with more than five overs to spare as Niko Davin smashed 89 runs off 45 balls, with 10 fours and four sixes. 

Two days later they beat Uganda by six wickets in a low scoring game, before thumping Rwanda by 68 runs on 25 November, after posting a huge 207/3, with Davin scoring 60 and Jan Frylinck 45 not out. 

The shock of the tournament came on 26 November when Uganda beat Zimbabwe by five wickets, but Namibia kept on winning, beating Kenya by six wickets, with Frylinck scoring 57 not out; and Nigeria by eight wickets, with Gerhard Erasmus scoring 48 not out. 

That saw them finishing the tournament unbeaten to finish on top of the log and book their place to the 2024 T20 World Cup, while Uganda made history by finishing second to book their first ever world cup spot. 

Namibia had already sounded a warning after beating Zimbabwe 3-2 in a first ever T20 international on home soil between the two nations in October. 

Namibia won the opening match by seven wickets, but Zimbabwe stormed into a 2-1 lead, after winning the next two by five wickets and six wickets respectively. 

Namibia, however, came back with a bang, winning the fourth match by seven wickets, before clinching the series with a thrilling 8-run victory on 30 October. 

By the end of the year Namibia had moved to a career high 11th on the T20 world rankings – the top ranked Associate nation, ahead of Test nations like Ireland (12th) and Zimbabwe (13th). 

JJ Smit and Gerhard Erasmus also moved into the Top Ten T20 all-rounders list, with ninth overall on 167 points, while Erasmus was joint-tenth with England’s Moeen Ali on 163 points. 

Namibia is the only associate member nation featuring amongst the top ten, while it is also the only nation with two players amongst the top ten. 

Namibia fourth in 50-over series

Namibia’s success in the T20 format was, however, not mirrored in the 50-over game, when they finished fourth in the ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 tournament to narrowly miss out on a place at the final Cricket World Cup qualifier in Zimbabwe in June.

Scotland won the tournament with 50 points and qualified for Zimbabwe, along with Oman (44) and Nepal (40), who pipped Namibia (39) to the third and final qualifying spot.

Gerhard Erasmus finished as the tournament’s top batter, with 1 298 runs at an average of 43,26, while Ruben Trumpelmann was fifth amongst the top bowlers with 51 wickets at an average of 22,01. 

In local cricket, Wanderers broke Windhoek High School Old Boys’ recent dominance when they won both the Premier League 50-over and T20 titles. 

On 4 March, Wanderers beat Old Boys by five wickets to win the 50-over Premier League title. 

Old Boys were restricted to 161 all out, while Wanderers reached the target for the loss of five wickets, with nearly half of their overs in hand. 

For Old Boys, Zane Green scored 45 and Shaun Fouche 28, while spinner Bernard Scholtz was Wanderers’ stand-out bowler, taking 4/22 off 10 overs.

In reply, Karl Birkenstock (55) and Nyasha Nyashadzaishe (45 not out) put Wanderers on the road to victory with a 60-run fifth wicket partnership asthey reached 165/5 off 27,3 overs. 

A week later, Wanderers also won the T20 title when they beat Old Boys by seven runs in the final. 

In a low-scoring final, Wanderers scored 90 for nine wickets, while Old Boys fell just short of the target, reaching 83/6 off their 20 overs. 

On 26 February, Wanderers also won the First Division 40-over title after beating the Shaheen Titans by 122 runs in the final.

Namibian women’s cricket continued to grow as the Capricorn Eagles made their mark in Africa. 

In May they hosted a four-nation tournament along with Uganda, UAE and Hong Kong and topped the group stages, to reach the final which they narrowly lost to Uganda by three runs.

In December, Namibia competed in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Africa qualifier in Uganda, where they finished third behind Zimbabwe and Uganda.

In June it was announced that Cricket Namibia had won three international awards at the ICC’s annual awards ceremony. 

Namibia won the ICC Development Initiative of the Year, the ICC Associate Member Men’s Performance of the Year, and the Cricket 4 Good Social Impact Initiative of the Year.

This follows on last year’s achievements when it also won three ICC awards, namely the ICC Development Initiative of the Year, the ICC Associate Member Men’s Performance of the Year, and the Africa Women’s Performance of the Year. 

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