Cricket Namibia makes its mark

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Timo Shihepo

Windhoek - A record-breaking performance from Namibia in 2019 against Hong Kong to regain ODI status has propelled the country to the summit of this year’s International Cricket Council (ICC) Development Awards.

Namibia won the ICC Associate Member Men’s Performance of the Year for the must-win World Cricket League Division 2 match against Hong Kong in 2019.

In ICC World Cricket League Division 2 matches held in Namibia, not only was ODI status on the line but the country’s pride itself.

And Namibia delivered, winning their match against Hong Kong with a big enough margin to improve their net run-rate and ensure they would once again be an ODI nation after 16 years. They went on to beat Oman in the finals to win the title and secure their first ODI win.

It marked a major breakthrough for a team that had been on the brink of qualifying several times before.

The tournament started with a win against the higher-ranked Papua New Guinea, a performance that provided the perfect confidence boost to the players, coaching staff and supporters.

Then they lost narrowly to the USA in a tight run chase before bouncing back against a strong Canadian side. However, another loss to Oman put them under pressure.

Missing out by narrow margins in five previous attempts had placed enormous pressure on the team going into the Hong Kong match.

Namibia needed to win and it needed to win big.

Sent in to bat on a green wicket, they were bullish as they accumulated 396 – the second-highest total for an Associate in List A cricket – buoyed by centuries from JP Kotze (148) and Stephen Baard (122) in a mighty second-wicket stand.

Kotze was in a particularly punishing mood, slamming nine sixes and 15 fours in his 86-ball knock. His hundred came off just 62 balls, before JJ Smit (61* off 26) and Zane Green (41* off 21) provided the fireworks at the end.

Namibia used eight bowlers and hunted in a pack to bowl Hong Kong out for 245, win by 151 runs, and secure the ODI status they had worked so hard for.

Cricket Namibia marketing manager Natalia Nauyoma said ODI status would have a significant impact on professionalising cricket in the country.

“The qualification meant that we can have 17 players on full-time contracts and through this became the only sporting code in Namibia that turned professional …

“The fact that high-quality cricket content will now be played on home soil has led to an increase in exposure to the game which aids the growth of our development programmes.”

Also in 2019, Namibia took another leap forward when they became one of the six teams at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier in UAE to seal their place in the World Cup in Australia. 

Crediting the work of coach Pierre de Bruyn for instilling “a hard-working, disciplined culture” and the leadership of the level-headed skipper Gerard Erasmus, Cricket Namibia added, “To gain ODI status and qualify for the T20 World Cup in the same year are magnificent achievements of which we are extremely proud. Credit must go every administrator, board member, and the player who set up and fostered the game in the country for the last 20 years.

Our team has also proven this year that they can compete against higher-ranked, competitive teams in the world.”

In March, Cricket Namibia signed a two-year contract with one of Africa's biggest beverages brands, Castle Lite, as the official sponsor for all international domestic games (“Castle Lite Series Namibia 2020”).

Earlier this year, Cricket Namibia partnered Pupkewitz Toyota for sponsorship of two vehicles for daily operations.

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