The Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi is cut off from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. However, there was an air of excitement around the first match of Wednesday's double-header, with Bangladesh facing pre-tournament favourites and holders of the 50-over world title England. The food joints were buzzing, as were the merchandise stalls, on a hot afternoon. Bangladesh fans even broke into jigs at the little picket fence enclosures on the grass banks when opener Liton Das cracked back-to-back fours.
Once England smashed Bangladesh, though, a huge chunk of the crowd dispersed, missing a rip-roaring opening sequence from Namibia left-arm quick Ruben Trumpelmann later in the evening. The 23-year-old struck three times against Scotland in the first over, thrilling a handful of Namibia supporters who had stayed back to watch their side keep their World Cup dream alive.
It all started when Trumpelmann swerved one in sharply from over the wicket, tucked up George Munsey and had him chopping on for a first-ball duck. Trumpelmann let out a primeval roar, with his team-mates and the Namibia fans rallying around him.
Trumpelmann then thumped out a hard length and angled it away from the right-handed Callum McLeod, having him feathering behind for a duck as well. Richie Berrington, who was captaining Scotland in the injury-enforced absence of Kyle Coetzer, was then pinned lbw by a full, fast inswinger. Bang. Bang. Bang. Trumpelmann roared once again and moments later wicketkeeper Zane Green jumped onto his back.
This was only the fourth time in 1371 T20Is that a bowler had taken three wickets in the first over of a men's T20I innings. Sure, Trumpelmann has a big inswinger, but it is his high-arm action and ability to skid the ball off the pitch that makes life more difficult for batters in these UAE conditions.
Trumpelmann's 3-0-11-3 helped Namibia restrict Scotland to 22 for 4 by the end of the powerplay. The damage proved irreparable despite Michael Leask's 27-ball 44 from No.6. When Trumpelmann came back for the 15th over, he showed his range: bowling from wide of the crease, bowling cutters into the pitch and capping his spell with a wide yorker that squeezed underneath Chris Greaves' bat.
Scotland's attack struck back to run Namibia close in a slim chance of 110, but it was Trumpelmann's tone-setting spell that headlined the evening. It couldn't have been any better and JJ Smit, who sealed victory with an unbeaten 32 off 23 balls, agreed with it at the post-match press conference.
"That was something special - to take three wickets in the opening over," Smit said. "We had them on the back foot from the first over. We can't ask for more and we enjoyed that (laughs)."
Trumpelmann was born in Durban, grew up in Pretoria, and worked his way up age-group cricket at the Northerns. Albie Morkel, the former South Africa allrounder and current Namibia assistant coach, then convinced him to make a career for himself at Namibia. Trumpelmann's father was born in Windhoek, which makes him eligible to play for Namibia, but that shift amid Covid-19 was tricky.
"Yeah, I think it's his father that is from Namibia. He actually took a while to get his Namibian passport," Smit said. "Rocking up and down, he came to Namibia to get his passport and Covid happened and he was stuck there for eight months. So, yeah, but he finally got it and he can play for us. So, we enjoy it and we enjoy having him in the team."
Smit also spoke highly of Morkel's contribution towards Namibia's progress. "Albie's contribution has been massive and brings that calmness to the team," he said. "Our coach [Pierre de Bruyn] is a bit fiery and spicy. Albie is cool and calm like you can remember from the IPL and South African days. He's experienced and just his calmness... I keep saying calm, but he's really calm. He makes a lot of jokes and keeps us all involved."
When Smit was applying the finishing touches to the chase, every run drew cheers from the Namibian fans in the crowd. What's the team's message to them?
"We're so thankful for them. It cost them a lot of money to be here," Smit said. "So, we are thankful and they mean the world to us and even the support back home. All the messages everyday... my phone doesn't stop, so I don't want to be in Ruben's shoes tonight (laughs)."
Namibia are playing their first-ever major tournament, but they are not here to make up the numbers, Smit insisted. Having won three successive matches against Netherlands, Ireland and Scotland, they believe that they can go deep into the tournament. They will next run into Afghanistan at the same venue on October 31.
"I think if we qualify for the semi-finals of the World Cup, there's going to be a massive uproar in the cricket world," Smit said. " Like we know we can, it's possible; we're here at the Super 12s, and we're enjoying it. We all believe we're going to be here. For the next game, it's just playing their spin well and their seamers. I don't think we should just focus on their spinners - obviously they have three of the best spinners in the world - but the seamers are also highly ranked and come with a bit of pace."
Smit had also done his bit with the ball, as did fellow left-armers Jan Frylink and Bernard Scholtz. Michael van Lingen also pitched in with one over. It's very rare that a team has four left-arm seamers in their XI at any level of cricket. So rare that only once before Wednesday has a team had four left-arm seamers bowling in a T20 innings - Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usman Shinwari, Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz for Northern vs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2020. Were Scotland caught napping by the pack of left-armers?
"Look, I think they bowled extremely well upfront, '' Berrington said. "A first over like that makes it pretty hard to recover. Showed a lot of faith in the middle overs there, just unfortunate we couldn't get enough runs on the board to give a chance in the second innings."
Left turned out to be perfectly right for Trumpelmann and co.