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Namibia VS Netherlands and Afghanistan VS Hong Kong to meet for semi final

The Netherlands will seek to draw inspiration from the World Cricket League Division 2 final earlier this year in its bid to beat Namibia on Tuesday and so qualify for the ICC World Twenty20 2016.


The Dutchmen believe they are the better team and memories of that comfortable victory last January in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, remain prominent in their minds and, they hope, in the minds of their vanquished opponents. Meanwhile, a highly motivated Afghanistan will face one of the surprise packages of the tournament, Hong Kong, in the other play-off of the day.


The winners of those two games in Malahide on Tuesday will join Ireland and Scotland in qualifying for India while the losers must then play off against the fourth-placed teams from the group stage, Papua New Guinea and Oman, for the final two qualification spots.


Netherlands captain Peter Borren scored 60 not out in that 50-over World Cricket League final as his team successfully chased Namibia’s 212 with eight wickets and nine overs to spare. And despite knowing that Twenty20 cricket is a different proposition, Borren feels the momentum is with him.


“We have beaten them before so we know we can do it,” said the 31-year-old all-rounder. “It makes it easier to prepare for the game knowing we beat them recently. That definitely gives us confidence. We know Namibia is a dangerous batting side. Craig Williams is a very good player and so is Stephen Baard and of course Gerrie Snyman so they’re not a team to be taken lightly. But we know them from playing in that World Cricket League final earlier this year so we feel we can beat them again.”


For most observers, Group B was by far the tougher pool at this qualifier so while he would have preferred to take top spot, Borren is relieved just to be in the competition still.


“We knew coming into this competition that we were in a tough group. It was so competitive. We are a little disappointed not to have won our group, losing out to Scotland on net run-rate, but that’s the tournament. We are still happy to have made it through the group and we still have a good chance of qualification. We are confident of progressing and it’s still our goal to win the tournament so that is the focus.”


There is a completeness about the Netherlands team. On the bowling front, the pacey Mudassar Bukhari and Timm van der Gugten have been a handful while in Michael Rippon (who took five wickets in that WCL final), Peter Seelar and former South Africa ODI player Roelof van der Merwe, they have plenty of spin options. Throw in the skipper’s nagging line and length and there aren’t many weak links for opposition batsmen to target.


And with bat in hand, Wesley Barresi, Stephan Myburgh, Ben Cooper and Borren himself have been in good form.


“We have good balance in our side, lots of variation in our bowling. We have spin options and our pace bowlers also vary their attack a lot, which I think is important in this format. Roelof has been a great addition to the team. In many ways, our team spirit is our main asset and he adds to that hugely. His energy and his competitive nature has been great for us. He is a very good bowler and a fantastic fielder. We haven’t seen much of his batting so far in the tournament but we know how good he is and hopefully we’ll see some of that from him soon.”


As for the Namibians, the way Group A ended, they will rue a missed chance to finish top but a fantastic innings of 98 by Hong Kong’s Irfan Ahmed proved to be the difference on the day.


Captain Nicolaas Scholtz is ready for the next challenge. He said: “We are disappointed not to have topped the group. We really wanted to beat Hong Kong, which would have given us qualification for India but it wasn’t to be. That’s Twenty20 cricket – one guy batted really well for them and took the game away from us. It’s important now that we put it behind us and we go again.


“We are in a good space as a team. We know the Dutch guys quite well. We know all their players and how good they can be on their day. They will come hard at us. We know exactly what they are going to do and they usually do it very well so we will have to be at our best to beat them. We have a game plan for them and we will do our best to execute it.


“Most of us are in pretty good form. We have guys scoring runs, taking wickets and we have a great team spirit. We like to play with freedom and in a way Twenty20 allows you to do that but it’s a fine line between going hard all the way and being irresponsible so we know when we need to bat sensibly, for example, and when we go all out.”


With a warm and friendly attitude, the Nambians have endeared themselves to their hosts since being in Europe and it seems the feeling is mutual.


“We have been in Scotland and Ireland now for a few weeks and the hospitality we have been shown has been amazing. We have been treated so well. This is a beautiful part of the world and all the guys have said how impressed they have been with the facilities and the way in which the people have been so kind. It is really an honour and a privilege to be here and to be playing in this competition,” said Scholtz.


It’s worth noting that three of the top four high-scoring batsmen from the tournament will be playing in this match so no target will be seen as out of range.


In the other play-off Afghanistan, which has played some of the most entertaining cricket in the tournament so far, will feel that it deserves a little luck. The Afghans’ game against Canada was abandoned in Stirling without a ball being bowled and had they beaten the Canucks as expected (Canada’s only point in the competition came from that no-result) it would have put them over the top of Scotland in the group.


But those are the vagaries of cricket, where the weather is often a factor and Afghanistan will need to focus on what it can control as it heads into a big game against Hong Kong.


For HK, Irfan has been in fine form with bat and ball and he has been well supported by the likes of batsmen Nizakat Khan and Mark Chapman and bowlers Haseeb Amjad and Nadeem Ahmed. Having taken the scalp of defending champion Ireland at Malahide earlier in the tournament, the Hong Kong players will believe they can beat anyone.

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