Ireland 149 for 5 (Wilson 38*, Poynter 38) beat Namibia 146 for 9 (Van der Westhuizen 50, Baard 32, Little 2-17, Mulder 2-27) by five wickets
A fiery start by Namibia's opening pair was wasted thanks to a middle-overs intervention by spinners George Dockrell and Jacob Mulder as Ireland rallied back in the field to hold Namibia to 146, eventually chasing down the target with two balls to spare in a five-wicket win. The victory ended Ireland's six-match winless streak in Twenty20s and kept them alive for a spot in the semi-finals while Namibia's second defeat of the tournament made them the first team eliminated from contention for a spot in the knockout round.
Louis van der Westhuizen blazed his way to 50 off 25 balls as part of an 81-run stand in just 8.4 overs. But he and fellow opener Stephan Baard fell in the space of six balls and despite being well-positioned at the halfway stage at 89 for 2, Namibia could only muster another 57 off the final ten overs. Teenage left-arm fast bowler Joshua Little produced an excellent final over, taking his two wickets while conceding just two runs by mixing his pace to perfection.
Ireland lost Paul Stirling and captain William Porterfield inside four overs and could have been three down inside the Powerplay when Kevin O'Brien took on Gerrie Snyman's arm at midwicket for a dicey run. O'Brien, on four with the score 48 for 2, gave up as the throw came at the non-striker's end but narrowly missed. It allowed his partnership with Stuart Poynter to eventually reach 48, Ireland's biggest of the match, and set them up to chase down the target, with Gary Wilson striking a nerveless 38 not out off 28 balls.
Mulder manipulates momentum
Legspinner Mulder took some punishment from van der Westhuizen in the seventh over, yanked over square leg and then driven over long-off for a pair of sixes in a 17-run over. Mulder was taken out of the attack and replaced by Craig Young at the Pavilion End, who beat the burly left-handed batsman for pace on an attempted pull and induced a return catch.
Porterfield then brought Mulder back from the Scoreboard End in the 14th over, and with two right-handers to bowl to, he caused problems for Namibia. Craig Williams lofted a catch to long-off on Mulder's second ball back, the first in a string of six dots. Four of those were bowled to Gerhard Erasmus, whose frustration reached a tipping point in Mulder's next over when he skipped down the track but couldn't reach out to a delivery bowled well wide of off stump as Wilson whipped off the bails for Mulder's second wicket. He wound up conceding just 10 off his final three overs in what was a match-turning spell.
Losing focus late
Namibia only conceded 14 extras in their first two games, but most of them have come at crucial moments. On Sunday, UAE needed 25 off 18 balls when Jan Frylinck bowled two wides and a no ball during a pivotal 18th over to release pressure. Ireland entered the 16th over needing 41 off 30 balls, but Frylinck overstepped to Gary Wilson on the fifth ball of the over.
Erasmus, who took a spectacular one-handed catch on the midwicket boundary earlier to dismiss O'Brien, took an easier grab at long-off on the next ball. However, he forgot about the free hit and flicked the ball in the air in mini-celebration to allow Wilson back on strike for a crucial second run. Another misfield at midwicket ended the over to allow two more for Wilson as Namibia continued to unravel.
Following the dismissal of O'Brien in the 11th over, left-arm spinner Bernard Scholtz bowled a maiden in the 12th to heap pressure on new batsman Greg Thompson, including a pair of very strong lbw shouts that were turned down. He conceded eight in the 14th over, at which point he had figures of 3-1-13-0. However, captain Sarel Burger took him off in favor of Frylinck for that crucial error-filled 16th and Scholtz never came back for a fourth.
"Even though he's a great spinner, at that situation of the game we had a discussion between myself and him and he was feeling that the guys obviously were looking to take him on," Namibia captain Sarel Burger said after the game when asked why Scholtz wasn't bowled out. "I think with the position we were in the game, we decided to go more towards the death bowlers and guys who specialize more in death bowling."
Porterfield said he was a bit surprised not to see Scholtz come back.
"Watching from the sideline, I thought he would've bowled the fourth to last over from the far end," Porterfield said. "But they obviously they had plans and lads that they go to and it [usually] works out. Kevin should have bowled four overs today, but we got a wicket. We broke it up with Jacob and then Jacob went quite well and it just meant we didn't bowl Kevvie out."
Louis van der Westhuizen
Namibia vs Ireland
Desert T20 Challenge
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna