T20 World Cup Qualifier: A look at the African challenge

Zimbabwe;s suspension from the International Cricket Council means that they will not be in the running to join South Africa in flying the flag for Africa at the T20 World Cup in 2020.

Namibia, Kenya and Nigeria will face stiff competition from sides with superior rankings and arguably better form but will be eager to pull off some upsets at the T20 World Cup Qualifier in Dubai.

Fourteen teams are participating in the qualifying tournament. In Group A are Scotland, the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Namibia, Singapore, Kenya and Bermuda. In Group B are hosts UAE, Ireland, Oman, Hong Kong, Canada, Jersey and Nigeria. 

Scotland are the highest ranked side, at No.11 in the ICC T20I Team Rankings. They are followed by UAE (No.12) and Ireland (No.14). Nepal, the No.13 side, missed out after being upset in the pathway tournament.  

Scotland and Netherlands shared the trophy in the 2015 edition, after the final was washed out. 

Here we look at the three African sides competing for a place in the T20 World Cup.

Namibia enter as dangerous dark horses

Having had a dream year so far, Namibia will go into the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier 2019 in Dubai as one of the most dangerous sides when they meet the Netherlands in their opening match in Dubai on Saturday.

Placed 19th on the ICC Men’s T20I Team Rankings, Namibia take part in the T20 Qualifier as an assured side.

Gerhard Erasmus’s team started off by winning the 2019 ICC World Cricket League Division Two in April – also securing one-day international status for the first time since 2003.

They then lifted the ICC World Twenty20 Africa Region Qualifier Final trophy in May.

Namibia have not lost a game with T20I status so far, and will thus be one of the favourites to make it to the T20 World Cup in Australia next year. 

5e128b77 zane green runout attempt against nigeria - T20 World Cup Qualifier: A look at the African challenge
Zane Green runout attempt against Nigeria, Namibia v Nigeria, Practice Match, 15th October 2019. Photo: ICC Media Zone

In fact, they have lost just one out of 12 international games this year.

With five wins in six games, Namibia finished second in the ICC World T20 Africa Region Qualifier C standings in 2018, behind Botswana, who were unbeaten in the competition.

However, in the ICC World Twenty20 Africa Region Qualifier Final earlier this year, Namibia turned the tables to emerge as tournament winners.

Namibia have never qualified for the main event, but they came so close in the T20 World Cup Qualifier in 2012.

They finished third on the points table, as the first two teams – Ireland and Afghanistan – advanced to the 2012 T20 World Cup.

They previously participated in the Cricket World Cup in 2003.

A key player for Namibia is JP Kotze. Namibia’s first and only centurion in both the limited-overs formats, he is their most important batsman.

He has scored 121 runs at 60.50 in three T20I appearances, and has a terrific strike-rate of 189.06.

His sensational 148 against Hong Kong earlier this year was vital in Namibia securing ODI status.

Namibia Fixtures

Saturday: v Netherlands, ICC Academy, Dubai

Sunday: v Papua New Guinea, ICC Global Cricket Academy No 2, Dubai

October 22: v Scotland, ICC Academy, Dubai

October 23: v Bermuda, ICC Global Cricket Academy No 2, Dubai

October 25: v Kenya, Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai

October 26: v Singapore, Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai.

Kenya hope to roll back the years and make T20 World Cup

Former Associate heavyweights Kenya enter the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier 2019 very much as the underdogs.

Ranked 29th in the T20I Rankings, Kenya face a stiff challenge to qualify for the T20 World Cup in Australia.

They are balanced on paper, with the experience of captain Shem Ngoche and Collins Obuya married to youth of players such as Sachin Bhudia and Pushpak Kerai. If the two can come together and fire in unison, it could do Kenya’s chances a world of good.

Kenya finished second in the hard-fought T20 World Cup Africa Regional Finals, level on points with Namibia, but behind on net run rate.

They participated in the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, but suffered heavy defeats at the hands of New Zealand and Sri Lanka in their two games.

A giant of Kenyan cricket,Collins Obuya has recorded some of the finest performances by anyone for his country on the world stage. His performances will likely go a long way to making or breaking Kenya’s competition.

47f0a398 dhiren gondaria in action against canada  - T20 World Cup Qualifier: A look at the African challenge
Dhiren Gondaria in action against Canada, Canada v Kenya, 15th October 2019. Photo: ICC Media Zone

One of a number of youngsters in the squad, 23-year-old Dhiran Gondaria already boasts impressive T20 stats. His average of 29.08, paired with a strike rate of 136, readily explains his opening spot in the team. The highlight of his career to date was a sparkling 78 from 47 balls during last year’s Africa T20 Cup against rivals Namibia.

Kenya Fixtures

18 October: v Netherlands, ICC Academy, Dubai

19 October: v Scotland, ICC Global Cricket Academy No.2, Dubai

21 October: v Bermuda, ICC Academy, Dubai

23 October: v Singapore, ICC Global Cricket Academy No.2, Dubai

25 October: v Namibia, Dubai International Stadium, Dubai

27 October: v Papua New Guinea, Dubai International Stadium, Dubai

Nigeria look to make T20 World Cup history

Nigeria surprised many by just reaching the T20 World Cup Qualifier, and will be keen to make a statement again, this time on the global stage.

Having only made their T20I debut earlier this year, during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Africa Region Final, Nigeria come into this tournament with very little expectation. Their young squad – six of their 15 players are under the age of 20 – will not be worried, though, and they will doubtless be looking to cause an upset or two along the way.

At 37th place in the T20I Rankings, Nigeria are the lowest ranked team in the tournament. But underestimate them at your peril, as they have already beaten higher-ranked teams in their short T20I history.

Nigeria qualified for the tournament by virtue of finishing third in the T20 World Cup Africa Region Final. While initially only the top two progressed, Zimbabwe’s exclusion from the Qualifier meant Nigeria joined Namibia and Kenya on the plane to the UAE.

Nigeria have never reached a T20 World Cup before. This will be their first T20 World Cup Qualifier.

52fb73e3 ademola onikoyi - T20 World Cup Qualifier: A look at the African challenge
Ademola Onikoyi plays a shot during an International Cricket Council (ICC) World Twenty20 African ‘A’ qualification match between Nigeria and Ghana in Lagos on April 17, 2018. The inaugural ICC World Twenty20 African qualifier has began in Lagos with four countries, Nigeria, Ghana,Gambia and Sierra Leone participating. / AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

Nigeria’s captain Ademola Onikoyi is a key part of the batting line-up. His 49 against Ghana, scored from only 35 balls and with four sixes, is the closest a Nigerian batsman has gotten to registering a maiden T20I fifty. He will be eyeing up this tournament as the place to go one better.

Named the vice-captain for the tournament despite being just 18 years old, Sylvester Okpe was Player of the Tournament at the ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup Africa Qualifier, where he led Nigeria to a shock qualification for the ICC Men’s U19 Cricket World Cup 2020. His nine wickets and 111 runs were just as crucial as his leadership skills, as his side went undefeated through their five matches.

Nigeria Fixtures

19 October: v Jersey, Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi

21 October: v Canada, Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi

23 October: v Oman, Tolerance Oval, Abu Dhabi

24 October: v United Arab Emirates, Tolerance Oval, Abu Dhabi

26 October: v Ireland, Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi

27 October: v Hong Kong, Tolerance Oval, Abu Dhabi

Compiled by James Richardson, team previews courtesy of ICC-Cricket.com

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