Namibia upset damages Scotland's WCL title hopes
Namibia 324 for 5 (Baard 78, Williams 69, Green 61, Watt 2-45) beat Scotland 274 for 9 (Coetzer 112, Berrington 61, Frylinck 3-45, Viljoen 3-58) by 50 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Allrounder Christi Viljoen continued to make his presence felt in his comeback tour for Namibia, taking three crucial wickets to wreck Scotland's chase as the visitors came away with a 50-run win at the Grange on Tuesday. The win is only Namibia's second in 10 matches in the current WCL Championship and it denied Scotland a crucial two points, keeping them three points behind Netherlands with four games left to play in the competition.
While Namibia racked up 324 for 5 under sunny skies, the late-afternoon forecast meant the prospect of rain and DLS calculations loomed over Scotland's chase. They got off to a brisk start behind captain Kyle Coetzer, who eventually finished with 112 for his eighth List A ton, and Matthew Cross in an opening stand of 42 in seven overs at which point the hosts were 10 runs ahead of the DLS par score.
But Viljoen, who is in the process of attempting to qualify for New Zealand and hadn't played for Namibia since 2014 prior to this series, changed the complexion of the chase when he was introduced in the eighth over by captain Sarel Burger. Just as he did in the first match between the sides on Sunday, Viljoen struck twice in his opening over, snaring Cross at short midwicket for 21 and then Calum MacLeod for a duck two balls later driving to mid-off. The double-strike meant Scotland ended the over 36 behind the DLS par score and they never got back out in front of the calculation in light of the lurking precipitation.
Coetzer and Richie Berrington faced an uphill battle trying to claw Scotland back in front of the par score with grey skies on the horizon. The pair produced a valiant 117-run stand to drag Scotland close but the nearest they came to the par score afterward was four runs when the score was 141 for 2 after 25 overs. However, Scotland were six behind the par score when rain took the players off at 158 for 2 in 29 overs.
A strong but brief shower came down, meaning the delay only lasted 18 minutes. A sense of urgency was present for Scotland though with ominous clouds never far off. On the Namibia side, left-arm spinner Bernard Scholtz had been applying excellent pressure prior to the break in a tremendous bounce-back performance after he was smashed for 29 off three overs on Sunday. Scholtz began by conceding just 18 off his first six overs prior to the rain and struck on his second ball after play resumed, beating Berrington with an arm ball after the batsman prodded down the wrong line to be given leg before for 61.
Scholtz took his second in his next over when Preston Mommsen drove to long-off and he finished his marvelous 10-over spell of 2 for 32 without conceding a boundary. Con de Lange fell in the 38th driving Jan Frylinck to cover as Namibia's pressure in the field continued to squeeze Scotland. The hosts had been 99 for 2 in 17 overs at the first drinks break but during the next 22 overs they were only able to score one boundary off the bat, with the only other ball that went to the rope coming from a leg-side wide for five extras.
Coetzer was dropped at backward point on 90 off Viljoen but a straight six and another drive for two off the next two balls brought up his century from 114 deliveries. By that stage though, he was quickly running out of partners and was eventually caught on the run at wide long-off for Frylinck's second wicket, effectively ending Scotland's hopes of a comeback at 228 for 7 in the 43rd. Another short rain break came after 47 overs but play restarted to allow the last 18 balls to be batted out with Scotland ending on 274 for 9.
The platform for Namibia's win was laid by an imperious 124-run opening stand between Stephan Baard and Zane Green, who was promoted to open in place of the injured Louis van der Westhuizen. Baard dominated the partnership after Namibia won the toss, humming to 78 off 53 balls through positive but controlled strokeplay. Only two of his 12 boundaries were struck over the infield - one each driven over mid-on and mid-off - while he profited most with a series of elegant cuts behind point.
Though Baard eventually fell edging a slower bouncer from Safyaan Sharif through to Cross, that was the only moment of success from Scotland's short ball strategy that had been so effective in a win a day earlier. Green continued on to make a List A career-best 61 before he was given lbw to Mark Watt playing across the line on the back foot. Gerhard Erasmus missed a sweep to be bowled by Watt for 27 at the start of the 31st to make it 188 for 3 as Namibia appeared on course for 350-plus with wickets in hand.
Scotland did well to contain Namibia over the next 16 overs but Craig Williams and JJ Smit broke the shackles by adding 45 off the last four. Vice-captain Williams ended unbeaten on 69 off 63 balls for the third half-century of the innings, his knock taking Namibia past 300 to a total that was comfortably defended in the end.
The result means Netherlands hold a two-point advantage over Papua New Guinea and a three-point lead over Scotland with two rounds to go in the WCL Championship. Both Netherlands and Scotland have two-match series against Kenya while Scotland's other series is away at PNG. Netherlands will play Namibia in their final series while PNG is paired against Hong Kong, currently in fourth place on 11 points.
Netherlands can win the WCL Championship, and a possible spot in the proposed 13-team ODI league that has been mooted for the qualification cycle ahead of the 2023 World Cup, if they win their final four matches. Should Netherlands lose one of their last four and PNG win out to finish tied with Netherlands on 22 points, PNG would be crowned the champion team by virtue of having more wins - 11 for PNG compared to 10 wins and two no results for Netherlands.
Since Scotland and PNG are paired against each other in the next round, with both teams needing to win out in their remaining games in order to track down Netherlands, only one of the two has a realistic shot to do it while a split series between Scotland and PNG would create an even bigger buffer for Netherlands. The Dutch have lost just one of their first 10 games and, barring a dramatic collapse in their last four, now appear on course to win the competition.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna