By Bakang Mhaladi
Gaborone - Namibia and hosts, Botswana, put firm daylight between them and other five contesting nations in the ICC World T20 Africa C qualifiers being played in Gaborone.
Two countries will progress to the next round of the qualifiers, to be held in Uganda next year, as the fight for places at the 2020 ICC World T20 Cup, gains traction. Australia will host the 2020 T20 World Cup, and countries are battling to book their places through a series of qualifiers.
Seven countries are in Gaborone for the Africa C qualifiers and, Namibia and Botswana have wasted no time in issuing statements of intent.
The two neighbours registered convincing wins on the opening day of the qualifiers on Sunday, and are now set for a humdinger against each other on Saturday.
Namibia were the first to send a clear message when they thumped minnows, Swaziland by 10 wickets, taking just five overs to chase down the low 72 total.
The Namibians are favourites to finish top of the pile, as they have shown class and all-round quality.
The same goes for the hosts, who took Mozambique to the sword with some swash-buckling batting in the sweltering Gaborone heat on Sunday.
Botswana posted an imposing 171, a total which proved too steep for a Mozambican side, which contained several young faces.
Mozambique batsmen fell like a deck of cards, as they folded to 49 all-out, handing Botswana a resounding 124-run victory.
Namibia won their next fixture against Malawi after chasing down a total of 85, for just the loss of two wickets, as their strong start did not show any signs of abating.
On Tuesday, a disciplined Botswana met unbeaten Islanders, St Helena. The Islanders, with a population of only 4,500, found the going tough despite being set a modest 145 to win.
St Helena, with big hitters in the middle order, found themselves in trouble early on as they slumped to 15 for two in the fifth over. Despite some lusty blows at the back end of the innings, St Helena could only post 63, as they suffered a huge defeat.
Boundaries proved hard to come by as seam bowler, Nabil Master and veteran James Moses, turned on the screws, with the hosts well and truly in charge.
St Helena are making their debut in the competition but have proved that size does not matter, after posting impressive results against Swaziland, Malawi and Lesotho.
There are only three primary schools in St Helena, a volcanic tropical island in the South Atlantic Ocean, which limits their pool.
However, team manager, Derek Richards said they are proud to rub shoulders with more advanced cricketing nations.
“There is a big interest in cricket back home. We are pleased that we are now playing at this stage, the boys have done us proud. They have exceeded expectations,” Richards told The Southern Times.
Swaziland, Lesotho, Malawi and Mozambique have been underwhelming and are in the tournament to make up numbers.
The tournament concludes with the biggest game of the qualifiers on Saturday as Namibia face a fired-up Botswana.
On paper, Namibia carry too much firepower for Botswana but the hosts will be buoyed by the home crowd, and the commanding performances of the likes of captain, Karabo Motlhanka, Moses and Master.