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Battling performance sees Papua New Guinea into first ICC T20 World Cup

November 27th, 2019Cricket

Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) reputation for sporting prowess has rocketed at pace across both cricket and rugby.

PNG soundly beat Great Britain Rugby League Lions recently after a difficult start and showed just why the game is their national sport. The previous month they similarly overcame a horror start in their qualifier game against Kenya in Dubai to reach the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2020, their maiden global tournament, as top of Group A.

PNG a tough road to their maiden ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2020 
 
While PNG ultimately emerged covered in qualification glory, they endured a pretty torrid few hours during the process. First off they had to recover from being 19 for 6 down at the Dubai Sports City Stadium clawing their way back to beat Kenya by 45 runs, a remarkable match upon which Expat Sport will expand in a moment. 

However, PNG’s destiny was also impacted by another game taking place between the Netherlands and Scotland that PNG players got to watch, with more than a whiff of anxiety in the air. For this game too was a battle royal of swinging fortunes, fraught with nervous energy as the Netherlands failed to score 131 in 12.3 overs or less against Scotland, which the Dutch needed to do in order to overtake the Scots on net run-rate.

As it turned out, both European sides qualified for the T20 World Cup but it required Scotland to come through the play-offs in order to reach next year's tournament in Australia.

PNG’s amazing fightback to beat Kenya by 45 runs

Although PNG reached an ICC global event for the very first time, it took a titanic comeback from the cusp of defeat against Kenya to secure their place.
Going out to bat first, PNG were soon in serious trouble at 19 for six as Kenyan paceman Emmanuel Bundi tore through their line-up, taking 4 for 18 with just four overs gone.

But the lower order came out fighting; Sese Bau laid some semblance of a platform with his 17 before Norman Vanua, batting at eight, slammed 54 from 48 balls to steer PNG to 118 all out. While this did not look a particularly demanding total to chase, it far surpassed an innings that might easily have descended into total embarrassment. 
Nevertheless, it was essential that PNG’s bowlers were precision personified from the outset and they rose to the occasion, with Vanua taking 2 for 19, capturing the prime wicket of Dhiren Gondaria in the first over.

Yet Kenya kept fighting. Gondaria’s fellow opener Irfan Karim holding his team together; he top-scored with 29. However, the regular fall of key wickets completely disrupted the African side’s chase, only Collins Obuya (10) and Aman Ghandi (14 not out) managed to creep into double figures following Karim’s departure, caught by Amini off Vala.PNG skipper and allrounder Assad Vala finished with a superb 3 for seven from his four overs, leaving left-arm quick Nosaina Pokana (3 for 21) to mop up the tail and suddenly Kenya were all out for 73.

In an even more nail-biting finish, the win alone was not sufficient for PNG to clinch top spot, but as reported earlier, their progression was sealed later in the day when the Netherlands failed to overtake them as table-toppers based on net run rate.
PNG captain Vala complimented his players on their resilience: 

“A couple of years ago, we would have been all out for 60 or 70. The boys learnt, showed some character, and got us up to a total that we were able to defend.

“It means a lot to the players and the fans. I don’t know how many qualifiers we’ve been to, we’ve come close on so many occasions, but this group believed they could get it done.

“T20 really suits the way we play, there’s a lot of energy involved and we don’t play a lot of 50-over cricket, so the boys are used to playing in the shorter format.”

Kenya captain Shem Ngoche analysed his team’s defeat: 

“Our batting is an area of concern that we have to go and figure out.

“If we’d have qualified, it would have been really good for Kenyan cricket. I’m happy for the boys for the way we came and played out here.

“We played good and bad cricket but I’m proud of those boys for the effort and energy they put out there.”

PNG the next stage in ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2020

Sport in Papua New Guinea is an important part of the national culture and PNG quite simply enjoyed a wonderful T20 World Cup 2020 qualification tournament, finally topping Group A ahead of the Netherlands.

All six of the qualifiers from the October 2019 tournament, will now prepare to join Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the group stages of next year’s tournament, which run from October 18th to 23rd 2020. The eight teams taking part will be divided into two groups, with the three teams residing in Sri Lanka’s Group A playing their games at Kardinia Park in Geelong, southwest of Melbourne. While Bangladesh and the remaining qualifiers make up Group B and will play their matches at the Bellerive Oval in the Tasmanian capital of Hobart.

The top two teams from each group then go on to join the eight top-ranked sides in the Super 12 stage of the tournament, to be played across Australia at venues located in Hobart, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.