Josh Ball (Royal Gazette, Bermuda)
Namibia openers Raymond van Schoor and Ewald Steenkamp put on a record-breaking 374 for the first wicket as Bermuda's bowlers were put to the sword at Wanderers Cricket Ground yesterday. The pair shared the highest opening-wicket stand in their country's history to far eclipse the 223 that van Schoor and Gerhard Rudolph scored against Eastern Province last year. And Bermuda must now bat for two days if they are to salvage anything out of this Intercontinental Shield match. Winning is no longer an option, today and tomorrow will be all about survival.
Already 277 runs behind, the likelihood is that they will face a target of something nearing 350 to save the game. Certainly they will have little time to do anything else, especially, if as expected, Namibia bat for the first hour or so this morning.
"We couldn't have asked for a much better day than that," said Namibia coach Johan Rudolph. "I think we'll push it, and look for a 300-plus lead, and the key was that we only wanted to bat once. If we can achieve that, we'll be happy. The key thing for us is to buy some time in the morning and that will also bring the spin bowlers more into the game because they will have the security of knowing they have a lot of runs to play with."
The game has gone because the tourists conceded a mammoth 455 runs in 96 overs yesterday and along with the 36 runs that Namibia scored at the end of the first day, a total of 419 in just 105 overs.
While Van Schoor (158), Steenkamp (206), and Craig Williams (70 not out) batted well, Bermuda's bowlers all failed to do their job for much of the day. And while they battled back to take six wickets for 118 runs in the final session, it was all too little, too late. More often than not the bowlers struggled with their line and length, and while the home side hit the deck hard enough to get some life out of a good batting pitch, Bermuda made it seem as if it was a lifeless as a road. They also paid the price for having only one recognised spinner, Rodney Trott.
While Namibia's Toby Verwey picked up five wickets on Saturday, bowling in conjunction with Bernard Scholtz, as Bermuda collapsed from 164 for three to 214 all out, Trott managed to take just two yesterday, while conceding 110 runs in the process. In fact, none of Bermuda's bowlers really covered themselves with any glory yesterday, Malachi Jones conceded 110 off 18 overs and Stefan Kelly went for 93 off 20.
Not that this should take anything away from Van Schoor and Steenkamp, who batted well, and whose running between the wickets was exceptional. They were helped, however, by some poor Bermuda fielding which saw Ryan Steede drop Steenkamp in the third over of the day at second slip when the Namibian opener was on just 26.
He was dropped again by substitute fielder Shannon Rayner on 176, and between that got lucky when a mistimed hook fell safe in midwicket, inches short of the onrushing Chris Foggo and Jekon Edness.
"I think if you look at today, you can't take anything away from them," said Bermuda skipper David Hemp.
"The two openers played particularly well but if you look at the overall day, they (Namibia) punished the bad ball and they ran really well, they ran aggressively, they pinched singles and made sure they pushed us for two in the outfield. I think that was one part, I also don't think we stacked up enough dot balls in the right areas to create pressure. We didn't take our chances when they came, and you can't do that, and we're still not doing the basics well enough to be able to compete with good sides, and that's where we have let ourselves down today.
"But we did keep going, and that's a pleasing thing for me, we didn't wilt in the field."
While the game would appear to be well beyond Bermuda's reach, there still seems to be a glimmer of hope for Hemp's men. The batting of Chris Foggo (34) and Fiqre Crockwell (17) in the first innings, along with that of David Hemp (52) and Stephen Outerbridge (46) suggests there is enough ability in the top four to put up a good fight.
And it would be unfortunate in the extreme if the batting collapse of the first day, that saw Bermuda lose their final seven wickets for just 50 runs, were to be repeated.
As with yesterday, though, the first hour will be crucial. Bermuda lost that battle when Van Schoor and Steenkamp added 77 off little more than 15 overs. They can ill afford to lose today's early exchanges, chasing anything more than 350 would appear well beyond them, certainly on the evidence of the first two days.