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New Zealand to take Namibia seriously to negotiate tricky Sharjah wicket

Namibia has had successful performances at the T20 World Cup despite being underdogs, and the Black Caps would not want to take any chances with the side by underestimating their potential, especially when the Kane Williamson-led side is in the semifinals.

SNS | New Delhi |

After a spirited performance in a losing cause against Pakistan and a four-wicket triumph over Scotland in their inaugural ‘Super 12’ game at the ICC T20 World Cup here, New Zealand spinner Mitchell Santner said Namibia will be “dangerous” on a tricky Sharjah wicket later on Friday.

Namibia has had successful performances at the T20 World Cup despite being underdogs, and the Black Caps would not want to take any chances with the side by underestimating their potential, especially when the Kane Williamson-led side is in the semifinals.

“They are (dangerous} for sure. Especially in T20 cricket. There’s an upset just around the corner. We’ve got to be ready… We’ve seen the wicket at Sharjah can be tricky, and it brings both teams back into it, said Santner ahead of the afternoon game on Friday.

“Namibia has played some good cricket. And so we’ve just got to be ready for that, ready for what the pitch is going to bring, (and ready for) a day game is obviously something new again in Sharjah.”

After two wins in three games, New Zealand is third on the ‘Super 12’ Group 2 table. If they win their final two matches, they will jump ahead of Afghanistan to claim the second position, which will confirm a spot in the semifinals. Pakistan has already secured a last-4 berth with four-of-four wins in ‘Super 12’.

The first of those two must-win matches is against Namibia in Sharjah. Scotland gave New Zealand a good fight in their previous game, so the Black Caps will be wary of underestimating the threat posed by the Associate Nation.

New Zealand has been clinical in their performances so far, keeping it simple and doing well to win the crunch moments against India and Scotland. Against Pakistan, they were in the game for long periods of time until Asif Ali’s late six-hitting took the game away.

Their biggest challenge is the quick turnaround and the change in conditions to Sharjah. “It’s pretty full-on. All-day games as well. So it takes a lot out of you,” said Santner, New Zealand’s left-arm spinner, adding that the team was focused on rest and recovery when they could.

“The biggest adjustment (we need to make) – obviously there’s a bit of difference playing in Sharjah versus outside the other two grounds. In New Zealand you’re looking for a bit of bounce, trying to bowl hard length into the wicket, get a bit of bounce, and you don’t really get that at Sharjah, where it actually sits up,” he told icc-cricket.com.

“The guys that have done well at Sharjah are the guys that are skiddier out in the front and keeping it low. That’s probably the biggest adjustment for me and Ish [Sodhi] where in the past you look for that over-spin and bounce, it’s a little less effective in Sharjah.”

Namibia, too, has a mathematical possibility of making the semifinals, but they’ll take it one match at a time, eager to put in performances that ensure they’re always competing with the top-ranked teams.

New Zealand has performed like a well-oiled machine, with each player fulfilling their specific duty. Martin Guptill’s 93 versus Scotland may have been their first major demonstration of individual excellence.

Namibia could bring back left-arm spinner Bernard Scholtz, especially if the Sharjah surface allows for a spin. They’ve changed their opening lineup a few times, but they’re likely to continue with Stephan Baard-Michael van Lingen for another game. There are injury concerns for their captain, Gerhard Erasmus, who has been receiving injections for a long-standing finger issue.

“We know New Zealand are tough opposition. They’ve got world-class players there. And we’re again being seen as the underdogs in the game, but we’ve played the games at Sharjah before, we’ve had a bit of success at Sharjah, and we think it’s a wicket that could suit our type of bowling. So we’ve done our prep,” said Namibia all-rounder David Wiese.

Probable XI: Martin Guptill, Daryl Mitchell, Kane Williamson (capt), Devon Conway (wk), Glenn Phillips, Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Adam Milne, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Ish Sodhi.

Probable XI: Stephan Baard, Michael van Lingen, Craig Williams, Gerhard Erasmus (capt), David Wiese, JJ Smit, Nicol Loftie-Eaton, Zane Green (wk), Jan Frylinck, Ruben Trumpelmann, Bernard Scholtz.

(With IANS inputs)