Sri Lanka can prove their status as firm favorites to win Group A and qualify for the Super 12 of the 2021 ICC T20 Men’s World Cup by beating Namibia on Monday. Skipper Dasun Shanaka headlines a balanced team for a nation that has won more World Cup matches in this format than any other country. Namibia will need pace bowler JJ Smit in peak form if they are going to spring an upset on their tournament debut.
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In the United States, the match (10 a.m. ET start time) isn’t on TV, but anyone in the US can watch Sri Lanka vs Namibia live on ESPN+ right here:
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Sri Lanka vs. Namibia Preview
Shanaka is a classic pinch hitter whose power will be an asset on the sluggish pitch at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. There’s quality and depth all the way through the batting order, but Avishka Fernando is the standout as the fourth man at the wicket. He went 83 not out at the start of the middle order against Oman earlier this month.
Shanaka also added 51 not out, proof this team still has some of the same potency with the bat that helped win this tournament in 2014. The captain’s ability to close out the order as a prolific finisher will likely be a key factor in who gets off to a winning start in the group. He can bookend the efforts of dynamic opener Kusal Perera, who can find the boundary from anywhere with his left arm.
Smit faces a tall order trying to deny the Lions runs in bunches. Fortunately, his left-handed deliveries and talent for varying between medium and fast pace should give Fernando, Shanaka and the rest a few different challenges. He reaffirmed his skill by taking a pair of wickets during a recent T20 Bash win over Papua New Guinea.
It would also help Namibia’s chances if captain Gerhard Erasmus can lend something to the attack. He’s noted more for what he does with the bat, but Erasmus is also capable of attacking the wicket with some crafty, off-break deliveries.
There’s no denying the talent Smit and Erasmus possess with the ball, but Namibia will still struggle to contain Sri Lanka’s batters. The newcomers may find it easier relying on their own order to go for broke. Erasmus can play his part, but the 26-year-old won’t be Namibia’s main weapon. Instead, Craig Williams will be relied upon to score in a hurry after he notched back-to-back half centuries against Scotland and PNG.
One hidden factor will be the play of David Wiese. The skilled all-rounder was bowled lbw for a duck against Scotland, but at his best, Wiese is somebody who can add runs at key moments in the order. Namibia have the batters to cause problems, but just like in their batting order, Sri Lanka has enviable strength in depth throughout the bowling attack.
It starts with dangerous pacer Lahiru Kumara, who is ably supported by Wanindu Hasaranga, Dushmantha Chameera and Maheesh Theekshana. Hasaranga and Chameera arrive at the tournament after the rigours of competing in the Indian Premier League, but both can put spin and pace on the ball.
There’s just too much quality in every area of the Sri Lanka team not to believe the Lions will make quick work of a Namibia side new to the intensity and stakes of this competition.