ICC Media Release
A brace of lbws just before the close by Peter Connell has put the ICC Intercontinental Cup final on a knife-edge at stumps on day two at St George's Park as Namibia will resume in the morning at 14-2 some 69 runs ahead of Ireland .
It didn't take Ireland long to wrap up the one first-innings wicket remaining after the first day with Kola Burger being bowled by Connell after he and Louis Burger had added nine runs to the overnight total giving it a final first innings tally of 250.
With Ireland 's impressive batting line-up, the defending champion would have been expecting to secure a first-innings lead quite comfortably but that did not take the prowess of Gerrie Snyman into account.
In fact, as remarkable as it sounds, at one stage it looked like Ireland might even struggle to avoid the follow-on as it collapsed to 27-4 and then 37-5 with Snyman ripping through the top order.
Niall O'Brien, Andre Botha and Kevin O'Brien, who have scored 1,498 runs between them in the ICC Intercontinental Cup 2007-08 so far and were all named in the team of the tournament, were all out without scoring as Snyman got the new ball to swing viciously in the Port Elizabeth morning sunshine.
O'Brien was out lbw in the third over of the day, which brought Alex Cusack to the crease. But then William Porterfield, Botha and Kevin O'Brien fell in Snyman's amazing sixth over, sending the Namibia players into a frenzy of excitement.
And when Snyman sealed his five-wicket haul by having Andrew White caught by Craig Williams at slip, a rout looked like a genuine possibility. But then Cusack and Trent Johnston put together the only partnership of any note to keep Ireland in the game.
They batted from the 15th over until the 61st, a partnership that remained intact throughout the entire afternoon session and contributed 141 runs out of Ireland final total of 195.
But when Johnston was bowled by Deon Kotze for an unusually restrained 58 the rot set in again and the last four wickets tumbled for just 17 runs as no one could stay with Cusack long enough to shepherd him to a what would have been a well-deserved century.
In the end his unbeaten 95 came off 231 balls and included 15 fours. It was not vintage Cusack by any means with only occasional glimpses of his normal fluency. The odd flowing cover-drive aside, this was a watchful innings by a player who knew the fortunes of his team were planted on his shoulders.
Mind you, had third slip clung on to a reasonably straightforward chance when Cusack was on just 12, the picture could well have been very different.
With the Irish 54 runs adrift at the half-way mark, it looked that if they were not out they were certainly down. But the way Ireland got stuck into Namibia in the last 40 minutes of play has set the pendulum swinging back towards the centre ground once again.
'If we can get two more wickets early on tomorrow we'll be back on top I think. We've got to just keep bowling tidily and see what happens,' said Cusack afterwards.
'I was happy with how I batted. I usually like to take my time in the four-day stuff. The ball was swinging around for most of the day, especially early on so I was just trying to be as patient as possible and wait for them to come to me,' he said.
As the wickets tumbled around him, Cusack dug in.
'I was just trying to put more pressure on myself to make sure I got my head down and just see out. Trent batted very well and we just tried to keep each other going and keep talking to each other to try and make them stay out there all day.
'I'd never write us off because we have come back before, particularly against Namibia . We had a great win there and I don't see why we can't do it again. With a lot of the guys missing out in the first innings they'll be looking to put that right in the second innings so hopefully we'll be able to pull it off.'