The great history of spectacular upsets in T20 cricket had another chapter added as Namibia secured a 55-run win over Sri Lanka in the opening match of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup at Kardinia Park, Geelong, on Sunday.
After big-hitting fireworks from Jan Frylinck (44) and JJ Smit (31 not out) helped Namibia post a competitive 163/7 in 20 overs, the bowlers produced a superb collective show, mixed their fuller and short lengths well to bowl out Sri Lanka for 108 in 19 overs for a historic win over a major cricketing nation.
Frylinck backed up his superb batting performance with a brilliant 2/26 in his four overs to be adjudged Player of the Match in Namibia’s famous victory and ease their path towards a Super 12 qualification while causing a huge dent in Sri Lanka’s net run rate. Apart from him, David Wiese, Bernard Scholtz and Ben Shikongo took two wickets apiece.
In defence of 163/7 on a two-paced pitch, Wiese brought the first breakthrough for Namibia, as Kusal Mendis top-edged a pull on his short ball to keeper in the second over. Shikongo broke the back of Sri Lanka’s innings with his back-to-back double strikes in a maiden fourth over.
While Pathum Nissanka holed out to mid-on, Danushka Gunathilaka poked at a nipping away delivery and gave an outer edge behind to keeper to depart for a golden duck. Post power-play, Dhananjaya de Silva was next to depart, mistiming a flick to long leg off Frylinck.
Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Dasun Shanaka added 34 runs for the fifth wicket, before the former mistimed a slog to deep mid-wicket off left-arm spinner Scholtz. Wanindu Hasaranga was next to fall, slog-sweeping straight to deep mid-wicket off Scholtz. When Shanaka fell by top-edging a slog to keeper off Frylinck, a victory for Namibia was just inevitable.
Earlier, electing to bowl first, Sri Lanka made good use of the breeze and tennis-ball bounce offered by a two-paced pitch with some tight bowling to leave Namibia in trouble at 93/6 in 14.2 overs. But Smit (31 not out) joined Frylinck (44) at the crease and the duo added 70 runs in the next 34 balls of their seventh wicket partnership to take Namibia to 163/7.
Namibia had a shaky start, losing both of their openers Michael van Lingen and Divan la Cock in the first three overs. Jan Nicol Loftie-Eaton made a sparkling 20 before falling to a wonderful catch from Kusal Mendis with the score being 43/3 at the end of the power-play.
Stephen Baard (26) and captain Gerhard Erasmus (20) were involved in a fifty partnership but were dismissed in quick succession in the middle overs. When fast-bowling all-rounder David Wiese perished for a golden duck against Maheesh Theekshana (1/23), it looked like Namibia would crumble before Frylinck and Smit engineered a rescue act.
The duo targeted Sri Lanka’s wayward bowling at the back end of the innings by targeting the shorter side of the ground for boundaries and ran hard for a lot of twos with the help of the longer side.
For Sri Lanka, star leg-spinner Hasaranga (1/27) bowled well during the middle overs. The economy rates of Theekshana and Hasaranga were below seven, while the economy rates of Dushmantha Chameera (1/39), Pramod Madushan (2/37) and Chamika Karunaratne (1/36) were above nine. But what the 2014 T20 World Cup champions would rue the most will be the 68 runs conceded in the last five overs which played a crucial role in a famous win for Namibia.