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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Virtual knockout awaits Ireland and Namibia with Super 12s spot on the line

Andy Balbirnie plays a square drive AFP/Getty Images

Big picture

It is the knockout before the knockouts, with the winner of the clash between Namibia and Ireland guaranteed to join Sri Lanka in the Super 12s and the loser set to join Netherlands on the way out. For both teams, the desperation to progress is immense.

Ireland have not qualified for the main draw of a T20 World Cup since 2012, and have been particularly poor in the shortest format. Their inconsistency belies their status as a Full Member - as a contrast, Afghanistan, who were awarded that status at the same time as Ireland, are automatically in the Super 12s - and failure to progress will likely result in serious introspection. Although they are ranked seven places above Namibia, victory is anything but certain for them against a plucky side who have already punched above their weight.

Namibia have made history at this tournament. Their victory over Netherlands was their first at a World Cup, and all indications are that they will not be satisfied with that. Namibia reacted to their blow-out against Sri Lanka with embarrassment and came back to chase their highest successful target in the format against Netherlands. Although they have already done more than any Namibian side at a World Cup, they will aim to go one step further.

These two teams have scant history against each other, having only played the other once in competitive fixtures before. The sub-plot, as has been the case throughout this group, will be about the South Africans: both sides are coached by South Africans, and feature several South Africa-born players too. For extra entertainment, watch out for the battle between David Wiese and Curtis Campher in particular, and the side-eyeing from the bench between Pierre de Bruyn and Graham Ford.

Form guide

(Last five completed matches, most recent first)

Ireland LWLLW
Namibia WLWWW

In the spotlight

Opening partnerships on both sides will be crucial, especially as runs have not been plentiful for either of these teams. Ireland have had first-wicket stands of 8 and 27, while Namibia have posted 10 and 34 so far, with both units relying on players in the middle order to push the totals towards and over 100. That has left the bulk of the run-scoring to Andy Balbirnie and Gareth Delany for Ireland, and Gerhard Erasmus and David Wiese for Namibia. Having middle-order muscle is no bad thing, but both teams will want better starts in this crucial fixture.

While Josh Little is joint-third on the wicket-takers' list so far until the T20 World Cup this year, the spinners have not had good returns on either side. Simi Singh was Ireland's second-most expensive bowler against Netherlands and most expensive against Sri Lanka, while Namibia used their spinners for an over each against Sri Lanka and didn't use them at all against Netherlands. Both attacks are laden with fast and medium-pace options, several of whom have good slower balls in their arsenal, which may serve them well again. But they would want front-line spinners to be able to call on, especially in Sharjah.

Team news

Ireland are unlikely to make wholesale changes, but may look to bring in further spin options given the conditions. Ben White, the young legspinner, could be recalled - most likely for Craig Young, though Simi might give way after three loose overs in Wednesday's game - while George Dockrell is a candidate to replace Harry Tector in the middle order, offering Balbirnie a left-arm spin option through the middle overs.

Ireland: 1 Paul Stirling, 2 Kevin O'Brien, 3 Andy Balbirnie (capt), 4 Gareth Delany, 5 Curtis Campher, 6 George Dockrell/Harry Tector, 7 Neil Rock (wk), 8 Simi Singh, 9 Mark Adair, 10 Josh Little, 11 Craig Young/Ben White

Namibia swapped out offspinner Pikky Ya France for Michael van Lingen in their last match, but may recall Ya France to suit the circumstances.

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

Pitch and conditions

The tournament moves to Sharjah for the first time, which has been talked up as the most difficult venue to bat on, on the evidence of the UAE leg of the IPL this year. In ten matches in the second half of the tournament, the average score batting first in Sharjah was just around 137, with the chasing team successful on seven occasions out of ten. Expect a low-and-slow-scoring match, where pace off the ball will be commonplace on the hottest day of the week so far.

Stats and trivia

  • Ireland and Namibia have only played one T20I against each other, at the third-place playoff in the qualifiers for this tournament, two years ago in Dubai. Ireland won that match by 27 runs.

  • Kevin O'Brien needs another 52 runs to reach 2000 T20I runs.

Quotes

"They've got some dangerous players. They've got some very hard-working cricketers that quite a few of them have learnt quite a lot of their cricket in South Africa, as well, and as Andrew [Balbirnie] said earlier, they pushed us close in the qualifying or the last game of the qualifiers. We know that they're going to be tough. If we're slightly off our best, we will struggle."
Ireland may be considered the favourites but coach Graham Ford expects Namibia to be tough opponents

"Come Friday against Ireland, if we can put in one more big performance, we could find ourselves in the next part of the tournament."
Namibia are brushing off underdog status with belief that they could qualify for the next stage, according to David Wiese

Namibia 2nd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st25CG WilliamsZE Green
2nd48MG ErasmusZE Green
3rd53D WieseMG Erasmus

ICC Men's T20 World Cup

First Round Group A
TeamMWLPTNRR
SL33063.754
NAM3214-0.523
IRE3122-0.853
NED3030-2.46
First Round Group B
TeamMWLPTNRR
SCOT33060.775
BAN32141.733
OMA3122-0.025
PNG3030-2.655
Group 1
TeamMWLPTNRR
ENG54182.464
AUS54181.216
SA54180.739
SL5234-0.269
WI5142-1.641
BAN5050-2.383
Group 2
TeamMWLPTNRR
PAK550101.583
NZ54181.162
INDIA53261.747
AFG52341.053
NAM5142-1.89
SCOT5050-3.543