Namibia wrote one of the most beautiful stories in modern-day cricket on Friday by qualifying for the Super 12s of the ongoing ICC Men's T20 World Cup. It was the first time they qualified for a major ICC event since the 2003 World Cup and they made the occasion momentous. Led by the talented Gerhard Erasmus, Namibia gave the 2.5 million people back home a moment to cherish for the rest of their lives.
Namibia have been a fine T20I side since their debut in 2019 but were unproven against big opponents. They qualified for this World Cup as the fourth team and were placed in a difficult group. They were the weakest team in Group A on paper. But as they say, T20 is an unpredictable format and Namibia managed to pull off what not many people predicted.
The win in the previous match against the Netherlands gave Namibia much-needed confidence. The inclusion of vastly experienced David Wiese worked wonders for them.
Namibia are seven spots below Ireland in the ICC rankings but that didn't matter. Ireland were off to a belligerent start, scoring 55 for no loss after six overs. And it seemed Ireland's experienced unit would get the better of Namibia.
But after the dismissal of Paul Stirling (38 off 24) in the 8th over, Namibia pulled things back big time with the ball. Apart from the opening pair, only captain Andy Balbirnie reached double figures. Namibia bowlers especially their seamers used the slower ball to great effect and restricted Ireland to 125 for eight after 20 overs.
Left-arm seamer Jan Frylinck picked up three wickets while Wiese got two and affected a run-out off his own bowling.
Namibia steadily started their chase and their plan was to keep as many wickets in hand as they could. Ireland's premier bowler Mark Adair was forced to leave the field with a side strain after bowling just 1.4 overs. It was a major setback for Balbirnie's men.
Namibia skipper Erasmus promoted himself to number three and the move worked well for his side. He put on an important 48-run stand for the second wicket with Zane Green. When Green got out, Namibia required 52 off 40 balls.
Ireland missed an opportunity to run Wiese out when he was on 1. Two sixes from Wiese in the next over rubbed salt to that wound and Namibia inched closer to history.
Erasmus, who was going less than run-a-ball until that point, upped the ante and with a glorious six down the ground off Simi Singh. He reached his fifty in the penultimate over with an elegant lofted drive over extra cover.
The winning runs, most fittingly, came off the bat of the player of the match Wiese. Namibia reached the target with nine balls to spare and eight wickets in hand.
It was surely one of the greatest days in the history of Namibia cricket. Family members of several cricketers were present at Sharjah and they saw history being made. They were beaten convincingly by Sri Lanka in their first-ever T20 World Cup match. Who would've thought a side ranked 19th in ICC rankings would beat experienced teams like Ireland and Netherlands in the space of four days?
But Namibia believed. They believed their campaign would be longer than six days. "Small country, a small number of people play cricket," said Erasmus but they qualified for the biggest stage. What a story!