Namibia, Netherlands look for batting upturn to stay alive at T20 World Cup
Namibia might stick with the XI that lost to Sri Lanka but Netherlands could bring in Stephan Myburgh and Timm van der Gugten
The cruelty of the big time will catch up with one of Namibia and Netherlands on Wednesday, with the T20 World Cup dream taking a major hit for the team that is defeated. Such is the first round of the T20 World Cup, where two losses are often too many, and the pressure of rising from an early stumble ever greater.
Both Namibia and Netherlands had poor starts to the competition. Namibia were bowled out for their joint-lowest score in a T20I and Sri Lanka then finished the small target inside 14 overs. Netherlands were rocked by a Curtis Campher hat-trick - four wickets in four balls - which took out their middle order and allowed Ireland to chase down a modest score with 29 balls to spare. The margins there also mean their net run-rates aren't great.
The expectations from the Dutch, who won the qualifying event two years ago and have significant major tournament experience in their squad, would be more. But Namibia expect a lot of themselves, and would have been disappointed with the way they performed in their first World Cup match in 18 years, especially after their intense preparatory period.
The big-picture aside there are also a few sub-plots - of the South African kind - here. Namibia's David Wiese and Netherlands' Roelof van der Merwe used to play for the same South African domestic side, the Titans, for example, so expect some fireworks and plenty of familiarity amid the desperation to prolong their T20 World Cup stay.
Last five completed matches, most recent first
In the spotlight
Craig Williams was Namibia's best batter in their match against Sri Lanka after coming into this tournament on the back of an impressive run. Williams has scored four half-centuries in his last five T20I innings, against Uganda, UAE, Scotland and PNG, and averages 41.14 in the format this year. If Namibia are to improve on their batting performance, they need Williams to do well and at least one other batter to support him. A middle order which includes captain Gerhard Erasmus and Wiese has enough to post a big score, but the proof will be in the pudding.
Between Ryan ten Doeschate and van der Merwe, Netherlands have 638 T20 caps but neither of the veterans had the opening match they wanted. They both recorded ducks after becoming the second and fourth victims of Campher's four-wicket burst, while van der Merwe was the most expensive bowler for Netherlands on the day. With ten Doeschate set to retire after this tournament and van der Merwe likely to be contemplating similar before the next event, the focus will be on them to see if they can lift their team.
Despite the poor batting in the opening match, Namibia are likely to go in with the same XI.
Namibia: 1 Stephan Baard, 2 Zane Green (wk), 3 Craig Williams, 4 Gerhard Erasmus (capt), 5 David Wiese, 6 JJ Smit, 7 Jan Frylinck, 8 Jan Nicol Loftie-Eaton, 9 Ruben Trumpelmann, 10 Pikky Ya France, 11 Bernard Scholtz
Netherlands have former Northerns player Stephan Myburgh in the squad and while they might want to call on his experience, they will have a tricky time making room for him. Netherlands may gamble with leaving out Ben Cooper or Bas de Leede in favour of Myburgh, who has not played a T20 since August 2019. They may also consider replacing Brandon Glover with Timm van der Gugten in the attack.
Netherlands: 1 Max O'Dowd, 2 Ben Cooper/Stephan Myburgh, 3 Bas de Leede, 4 Colin Ackermann, 5 Ryan ten Doeschate, 6 Scott Edwards (wk), 7 Roelof van der Merwe, 8 Pieter Seelar (capt), 9 Logan van Beek, 10 Fred Klaasen, 11 Brandon Glover
Pitch and conditions
Monday's Group A matches were low-scoring, but that is more a reflection of the line-ups than the conditions in Abu Dhabi, known to be usually good for batting. We could now be in for a close contest, whether low-scoring or in a run fest. The surface will, however, still be low and slow. And it will be another scorcher.
Stats and trivia
"We don't necessarily have to go back to the drawing board. We have a very good game plan. We back ourselves in strike rotation and play spin well, which we just didn't execute tonight. The spirit in the camp is extremely high. We back ourselves obviously against the Netherlands, we back ourselves against Ireland, and let's see where those games take us."
Craig Williams is not taking Namibia's opening defeat to Sri Lanka too badly.
"Two must-win games. We've got Namibia, who we've played before, and we know their strengths, we know their weaknesses, and we're going to have to go out and beat them."
It's a straightforward case of must-win for Netherlands, according to opening batter Max O'Dowd.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent