Namibia take on Zimbabwe in Africa Qualifier Final

Craig Ervine got Zimbabwe off to a fine start in their T20I victory over Scotland in Edinburgh. Credit: AP

With just one spot up for grabs, Namibia faces tournament favourites Zimbabwe in a contest fitting of a final in Botswana.

Undefeated in the lead up to today’s final, the teams facing off have been largely untroubled, with the exception perhaps being Namibia’s tense semi-final win over Tanzania.

The Namibians were pushed to the end by Tanzania, chasing a target of 90 with two wickets and two balls to spare, while in the semi-final one, Zimbabwe defended 108 in a stellar bowling performance against Uganda.

The meeting is a rematch of the same tournament final back in 2019, where Zimbabwe ran away as big winners emphatic winners on home soil. Set 115 for victory, Namibia crumbled to fall 50 runs short, though would turn out to represent the region at the global qualifier, after Zimbabwe Cricket was suspended due to government interference in 2019.

Two years on and not as hamstrung by administrative issues, Zimbabwe has a wealth of options with the bat, with captain Mary-Anne Musonda leading the side.

Despite averaging 43 at a strike rate of 116.21 so far in the tournament though, Musonda has played a supporting role in her team’s campaign with the bat, watching the likes of Modester Mupachikwa and Ashley Ndiraya from the other end.

Mupachikwa (133 runs at 66.50) can lay claim to the tournament’s highest batting average, with Ndiraya’s 112 runs at the top of the order coming at 28.00.

In the bowling side, spinner Loryn Phiri (15 wickets at 2.46) is yet to be countered, while Esther Mbofana’s seam at the other end has also been effective.

Namibia has made strides in their cricket after the experiences of the global qualifier, and return as a stronger collective unit at this year’s final, though their strength still lies in the field.

Beating major group rivals Uganda by four runs in their first match, the Namibians have stuck to their guns throughout the tournament, with four bowlers taking six wickets or more across their five matches thus far.

Wilka Mwatile has been the spearhead of the attack, taking nine wickets at 6.22, going for a miserly 3.11 runs per over.

To beat a strongly-fancied Zimbabwe though, Namibia’s top order must fire. Saved by skipper Irene van Zyl in the two-wicket semi-final win batting at six, Yasmeen Khan, likely to bat at three, will need to provide middle overruns after a stable opening stand from Adri van der Merwe and Sune Wittman.

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