Namibia 161 for 7 (Smith 59, Williams 45, Khan 4-19) beat Oman 107 (Khawar 41, Scholtz 3-14, Erasmus 3-19) by 54 runs
"Not again". That's what Namibia captain Gerhard Erasmus said was going through his mind as Khawar Ali was torching his bowlers to take Oman to 55 for 1 after five overs chasing a target of 162. Namibia have gone through more heartbreaks than most teams at the T20 World Cup Qualifier, failing in five qualification playoff matches spread across 2012, 2013 and 2015. That sense of déjà vu was especially present for Erasmus for he was in the XI when Oman upset Namibia four years ago at Malahide chasing 149 to clinch a place at the 2016 T20 World Cup in India.
This time Bernard Scholtz's introduction in the seventh over sparked a stunning fightback as Oman lost 6 for 32 to the left-right spin tandem of Scholtz and Erasmus to help Namibia secure a 54-run win and their first ever trip to the T20 World Cup. JJ Smit was named Man of the Match for his stirring counterattack in the first innings, blitzing a 20-ball half-century before taking two wickets at the end to clinch victory, Namibia's fifth straight after starting the tournament with back-to-back losses.
After overcoming the loss of Jatinder Singh, caught at deep square leg on the second ball of the chase, Ali had been toying with the Namibian pace bowling unit through the rest of the powerplay and took a special liking to Christi Viljoen. Ali drove, pulled and cut him for a trio of fours to start the second over, then pulled him over midwicket and drove him over long-on for a pair of sixes in the fifth.
But the wheels came off in the Oman chase upon the arrival of Scholtz. Aqib Ilyas tried to slog sweep the first ball he saw against the spinner and missed, struck on the back leg in front of middle for a straightforward lbw decision to end a 57-run stand. Despite being well ahead of Namibia's position - they had ended their own powerplay at 36 for 3 - Scholtz and Erasmus seized on Oman's batting hubris to run amok through the middle order.
Captain Zeeshan Maqsood was out sixth ball lofting a drive to long-off in the eighth off Erasmus. Ali charged impetuously at Scholtz four balls later to be out stumped for 41 off 25. Suraj Kumar produced a reckless heave first ball and was fortunate to be spilled by Smit on a straightforward chance at long-on, but refused to adjust his approach and slog swept Erasmus to Jan Frylinck at deep midwicket for 6 in the 12th. Kaleem swatted Scholtz to Frylinck at cow corner for 13 five balls later before Sandeep Goud skied a slog over mid-on for Erasmus to circle back for a sharp over-the-shoulder catch to complete a shocking and in some ways self-inflicted collapse.
Smit came back for a late spell to claim Khurram Nawaz with a full delivery in front of middle stump for a leg before decision and then induced a skier to backward point on the first ball of the 20th taken by JP Kotze to end the match.
As pivotal as Scholtz's spell was, there was no doubt that 23-year-old allrounder Smit would be Man of the Match for rallying Namibia with the bat. Erasmus looked like he may have made the same mistake as UAE earlier in the day by choosing to bat first as Namibia found themselves at 82 for 5 in 14 overs. Outside of Niko Davin's brief flurry in the powerplay, the rest of the top and middle order failed as Oman took command.
However, Smit and Craig Williams plundered 67 in a four-over sequence from the 15th through the 18th that turned the match upside down. Smit savaged Oman's spinners in particular, driving Kaleem's left-arm spin over long-off and extra cover for a pair of sixes in the 16th, then drove Ali's legspin almost out of the stadium into the top row of the second tier over long-off to bring up his half-century at a strike rate of 250. One ball later he swatted Ali over wide long-on for six more to leave Oman shellshocked.
Bilal Khan dismissed both Williams and Smit off a pair of full tosses in the 19th, adding to two exceptional deliveries in his opening two overs that claimed Stephen Baard at short midwicket on the first ball of the match and a nipbacker to bowl Kotze in the third. Namibia only added 12 runs off the final two overs as a result, but Khan's spell went to waste.
Namibia advance to the semi-finals where they will take on Papua New Guinea on Friday night. Oman get a second crack at claiming one of the final two berths at the T20 World Cup when they take on Hong Kong on Wednesday night in an elimination playoff.