The Richelieu T20 Franchise Series heralded in the new Namibian cricket season with a colourful display of action-packed cricket at the United Sports Field over the weekend.
Four franchise teams dressed to the nines in garish strips of orange, purple, green and blue treated cricket fans to some dazzling displays, with star national all-rounder JJ Smit the standout player after the first weekend’s matches.
Smit, who was out for several months due to a knee injury, was back to his best with some explosive batting performances as he steered his team, the Etosha Wildcats, to top spot on the log after they won their opening three matches.
He took a while to get going, scoring 27 at a reasonably sedate pace, off 26 balls in their five-wicket win against the Fish River Eagles on Saturday, when JP Kotze was the star batter, with 45 off 38 balls, as they comfortably chased down the Eagles’ total of 114 with four overs remaining.
Smit, however, upped the tempo in their next match as they thrashed Windhoek Jets by eight wickets with 22 balls to spare.
After electing to bat, the Jets posted a competitive 131/4 with captain Jan Frylinck scoring 52 not out off 49 balls (1×6, 4×4) and Niko Davin contributing 35 off 27 (3×6,1×4).
In reply, the Wildcats lost Kotze (1) and Nicol Loftie-Eaton (2) early on, but Smit and Michael van Lingen turned the match on its head with a scintillating unbroken century partnership. They added 107 runs off only 69 balls, to steer the Wildcats to victory, with Smit scoring 65 not out off 37 balls, including seven huge sixes, while Van Lingen contributed 59 not out off 49 balls (3×6, 4×4).
On Sunday, Smit was at it again, scoring 65 not out off 50 balls (4×6, 3×4), and with Loftie-Eaton adding 45 off 29 balls (2×6, 4×4), the Wildcats posted a commanding 165/4 off their 20 overs.
That was more than enough as they restricted the Lions to 123/9 to complete a comfortable 42-run victory.
That put the Wildcats at the top of the log on six points from three matches, followed by the Jets on four points, while the Fish River Eagles and the Namib Desert Lions must both still open their account.
The Jets picked up two victories, beating the Namib Desert Lions by 24 runs on Friday and the Fish River Eagles by 23 runs on Sunday.
Divan La Cock gave a match-winning performance against the Lions, scoring 43 off 43 balls in a total of 147/5, and then taking 3/17 to restrict the Lions to 123/8.
Against the Eagles, explosive batting performances by Niko Davin and Zane Green led the Jets to a commanding 181/4 off their 20 overs. Davin and Green both scored 66 runs, with Davin’s coming off 45 balls (3×6, 6×4), while Green’s came off only 27 balls (2×6,10×4).
For the Eagles, Michau du Preez scored 48 not out off 33 balls and Nyasha Nyashadzaishe 68 off 44 balls (4×6,6×4), but it was not enough as the Jets eased to a comfortable win.
The Windhoek Jets currently have three batters among the top five, with Frylinck second behind Smit with 101 runs (at an average of 52,00), Davin third with 101 runs (average 33,67) and Green fifth with 81 runs (average 81,00).
The Etosha Wildcats have three bowlers among the top five, with Darren van Wyk leading the way with four wickets at an average of 7,25.
Danie van Schoor is third with three wickets at an average of 11,33 and Bernard Scholtz fourth with three wickets at an average of 18,00.
Simon Shikongo of the Windhoek Jets is second with four wickets (average 19,50) and Tangeni Lungameni of the Namib Desert Lions fifth with three wickets (average 12,67).
The Richelieu T20 Franchise series continues at the United field tomorrow, with the Etosha Wildcats taking on Namib Desert Lions, starting at 14h45. Several more matches will take place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before the final scheduled for Sunday afternoon.