Namibians stun Scots to snare World Cup berth
Namibia has made cricket history here in Toronto today by qualifying for its first-ever World Cup.
With a thrilling nine run win over Scotland that prolonged a giant-killing streak at this 2001 ICC Trophy tournament, the Namibians again belied their thirteenth seeding to ensure that they will be one of as many as four African teams involved two years from now on world cricket's biggest stage.
A match that pitted two teams together in a direct battle for World Cup qualification was always expected to be a pressure-laden and high-class affair. On a pitch as true as most have been at the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club during the last fortnight, the bowling of both sides did not live up to such billing. But the batting was exceptional: captain Daniel Keulder (104) and Riaan Walters (43) guiding Namibia to a challenging total of 256/6 before Colin Smith (88) and Drew Parsons (53) returned the compliment in mid-afternoon.
Tellingly, it was the dismissal of Smith - as he heaved at a delivery angled in at his middle and leg stumps by lightly built right arm paceman Burton van Rooi (6/43) - which sparked the Scots' demise. As part of a collapse that ultimately saw the last eight wickets tumble for the addition of 69 runs, Parsons errantly called for a third run from a stroke hit firmly toward the long off boundary. Craig Wright (23), George Salmond (1) and Gregor Maiden (1) were each bowled and John Blain (6) and Keith Sheridan (0) trapped lbw as all five of them were confused into playing down the wrong line.
Their team had still reached the last two overs needing just ten runs to win and with three wickets still in hand. But, before an absorbed crowd, van Rooi emerged heroically to snare two wickets from the final three deliveries of the match, sandwiching those scalps around the first-ball run out of James Brinkley (0). In the depths of adversity, the Namibians had returned to what they know best: solid fielding and disciplined bowling along a corridor on and around the line of off stump.
Their entire campaign has developed into something of a metaphor for self-belief and determination: an unbeaten streak that now stretches to eight matches having underpinned their progress from status as a Division Two team in the preliminary rounds to the tournament's ultimate match.
"Unbelievable," said a candid Keulder of the team's mood after the match.
"It's an absolutely brilliant feeling (to qualify for the World Cup) and it's actually a pity that only three teams can experience it.
"We've produced a good standard, a good level of cricket and that's been the thing which has paid dividends for us."
For a country which only includes a handful of clubs in its main competition, and whose administrative staff all operate in their positions only on a voluntary basis, it represents a brilliant achievement.
The Scots' aspirations of clinching a berth in what would be a second successive World Cup have meanwhile been put on hold until Tuesday, when they will meet Canada for the rights to the fourteenth and last place on offer in the event.
Holland, the Trophy's top-placed qualifier, meanwhile sealed its preparations for its meeting with Namibia in the Final on Sunday with a comfortable 33 run victory over the United States of America at Maple Leaf. Following the nail-biting win over Ireland yesterday that guaranteed them a 2003 World Cup spot of their own, the Dutchmen had celebrated long into the morning and, understandably, their minds seemed to be elsewhere at times around an innings from Klaas-Jan van Noortwijk (43) that led them to a total of 203.
Ajaz Ali (3/23) had restricted them well with accurate pace bowling and was then one of the top-scoring batsmen in the chase. The USA upper order had already buckled against the speed and accuracy of Sebastiaan Gokke (5/43) by the time he came to the batting crease, though, and not even a spirited lower order revival could change the general course of proceedings. The Americans finished the competition six places behind their opponents, in seventh position on the Super League table.
At Ross Lord, one-sided victories for the United Arab Emirates and Ireland rounded out the day's action. The UAE climbed to a finishing position of fifth in the tournament with a five wicket triumph that arrived with more than twelve overs to spare over Denmark. The Danes had been one of the best-performed teams in the preliminary matches but did not win a match during the Super League stage, ending in sixth position overall.
Arshad Ali (4/25 & 37) deservedly won the man of the match award after confounding a succession of rival batsmen with an excellent spell of leg spin bowling and then fulfilling a key role in the reply. All-rounder Khuram Khan (2/26 & 43*) also closed out a superb individual performance in ICCT 2001 with another polished double.
Ireland's seven wicket victory over Canada was built around a devastating stint of new ball bowling from Adrian McCoubrey (4/35) and Paul Mooney (2/37) that reduced the hosts to a scoreline of 20/4 only eight overs into the contest. The in-form Joe Harris (73) and Ashish Bagai (56) led a sparkling counter-attack, adding 112 runs for the fifth wicket, but wickets again tumbled quickly in the closing stages of the innings.
Led magnificently by Peter Davy (104*) and Ed Joyce (51*), the Irishmen then completed the only Super League victory recorded by any of the three qualifiers from Group 1B of the competition with 32 deliveries still remaining.