Leaders in both the Namibian and Canadian camps hope for maximum points from the ICC Intercontinental Cup match that starts in Windhoek, Namibia, on Thursday (October 25). The match is scheduled for two-innings per side over four days and has first-class status.
Canada recently lost by 9 wickets to Kenya in this competition and also lost both ODIs to Kenya. However, Canada won a warm-up game against Namibia A by six wickets, soon after arrival in Windhoek. The Maple Leaf cricketers will be looking for a win to close a busy year of international cricket that stretches back to November 2006.
As the game approaches, Canadian coach Pubudu Dassanayake, a former Sri Lankan Test player, said 'Obviously, it is difficult to go into any match after a series of disappointing results. But the positive side is that in the two ODIs against Kenya we were extremely competitive and gave our much more experienced and fancied opponents a run for their money.'
He added 'A coach always looks at the positives and I believe defeats in the last two ODIs were mainly because Kenya utilized its experience and finished off in style even though we controlled the matches for most of the time. We have to carry forward that aggressive and positive attitude but with a controlled approach in the Namibian game.'
Dassanayake hopes for the maximum 20 points from the Namibia match. In 2008, Canada will meet Scotland, Ireland and Bermuda to complete its schedule in the round robin phase of the Intercontinental Cup. The top two sides qualify for the final, scheduled for November 2008 at a venue yet to be confirmed. Canada has played in two of the three finals since inception of this competition in 2004, but lost both times.
Namibia has done well since making a mark in Associates cricket at the 2001 ICC Trophy in the Greater Toronto Area. Nambia came second after winning a lower group and a cross-over match against Bermuda. The side lost the final to the Netherlands on a last-ball mis-field, but both teams, and third-placed Canada, qualified for the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.
Namibia has subsequent success at Under-19 level, including qualification for the next year's U19 World Cup, and the senior team has seen changes, even since the teams last met at the ICC Trophy in 2005, when Dassanayake was playing for Canada. A match Canada won by 2 runs in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The aimiable Dassanayake noted 'The Namibian team has changed quite a lot since that game. The present team has several new youngsters who play their domestic cricket in South Africa . Ii becomes difficult to chalk out a strategy against an unknown opponent but here we want to play to our strength which is batting and fast bowling.'
Namibia participates in the South African A Provincial three-day Challenge and last week played its opening game in the competition against North West which ended in a high scoring draw. Gerrie Synman was the star performer for Namibia, scoring 90 in the first innings that helped Namibia secure a three-run first innings lead.
Three members of Namibia's successful U19 squad - Morne Engelbrecht, Ewald Steenkamp and Raymond van Schoor - are in the 13-man squad for the match with Canada.
Namibia captain Bjorn Kotze admits the performance of the U/19 team has raised the bar of expectations on the senior team. 'There is no doubt that the U/19 team has shown us the way forward and has given us extra motivation to match their achievement by winning the ICC Trophy in Abu Dhabi in 2009 to qualify for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 in the subcontinent.
'This is a very important phase in Namibian cricket where good youngsters are coming up and pushing the senior players for places in the team. There is pressure on senior players but it is healthy pressure which is getting the best out of us,' said the 29-year-old fast bowler took the wickets of Australia's Damien Martyn and the Pakistan duo of Saeed Anwar and Mohammad Yousuf in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003 in South Africa.
Kotze said 'We feel very confident ahead of the match and want to make a winning start. Although we are missing a few experienced players, we had good run-up to this match and now it's all about delivering at the right time.'
' Canada is competitive and a hard team to beat. We are not reading much into their defeats against Kenya because Kenya has far more experience than us. In fact, I think Canada will be more dangerous than before as it will be looking to reverse the fortunes.'
'Instead of looking at what they have done in the past, we will concentrate on what we have to do in the coming days to collect maximum points.' He hopes familiarity with the Wanderers Cricket Ground in Windhoek will prove an added advantage. 'Obviously, you can always prepare better if you are playing in familiar conditions.'
Canada squad: Sunil Dhaniram (captain), Henry Osinde, Umar Bhatti, Arvind Kandappah, Calvert Hooper, Aftab Shamshudeen, Durand Soraine, Qaiser Ali, Abdul Jabbar Chaudrey, Krunalbhai Patel, Jason Patraj, Trevin Bastiampillai, Ashif Mulla, Mohammad Iqbal.
Namibia squad: Bjorn Kotze (captain), Andries Burger, Nicolaas Scholtz, Gerrie Snyman, Kola Burger, Matheus van Zyl, Tobias Verwey, Morne Engelbrecht, Louis Klazinga, Ewald Steenkamp, Raymond van Schoor, Michel Durant, Wilber Slabber.
The umpires are Russell Tiffin and Brian Jerling (both Emirates International Panel of Umpires).