Dubai: The best test of cricket skills is how teams negotiate a difficult pitch. When the strip is slow and when the bounce is low, scoring can be difficult. That’s when batting becomes a test of temperament and technique. And the sluggish Sharjah wicket has been challenging for most sides at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.
New Zealand strolled to a 52-run win over Namibia in a Group 2 game on the sheer weight of skill and experience. As a Test-playing nation, the Kiwis have played their cricket on all kinds of surfaces. And that experience comes in handy when they are faced with tricky surfaces.
Opted to field
The gulf in how teams handled the Sharjah surface was glaring. Since Namibia won the toss and opted to field, they had the benefit of batting second when the pitch eases up. But at no point in the chase did they look making a match of it. It was quite underwhelming.
Michael van Lingen (23) and Stephan Baard (21) put together 47 for the wicket, but after that the Nambian challenge wilted. Baard was to say later that the New Zealand bowling had so much quality that they never allowed Namibia to step up the scoring and come back into the match.
That illustrated the difference between the two sides. New Zealand were 87/4 in the 14th over and were looking at a total of around 130 after Namibia captain Gerhard Erasmus bowled some tight lines. That’s when Glenn Philips (39) and Jimmy Neesham (35) powered them to 163/4 in 20 overs.
Neesham said later that the plan was to target the shorter boundary square off the wicket. The task made easier by the was a left-right combination. The plan was to give strike to the person who could target the square-leg fence, he said after the game.
That’s the thought process that goes into match situations when players have had the experience of big-match situations. Namibia admittedly are short on that, and it showed.
Baard said the tournament has been a huge learning experience, and they have enjoyed every minute. And they could carry the lessons from these matches into the next World Cup.
The win helps New Zealand vault to the second spot in the points table. But their semifinal spot will be confirmed only if they beat Afghanistan. And the display against Namibia showed that they were on the right track.