DUBAI: Papua New Guinea (PNG) will make their first -ever appearance at a global cricket competition after beating Kenya in Dubai on Sunday to book their place at next year’s T20 World Cup.
PNG hammered Kenya by 45 runs at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium but had to wait for the result of the Netherlands’ game against Scotland before they could celebrate their automatic qualification for the tournament in Australia next year.
The Dutch beat Scotland by four wickets but failed to knock off the 131 they needed for victory in 12.3 overs which meant that PNG topped the group with a higher net run rate.
“I am feeling a little emotional,” PNG’s Australian coach Joe Dawes told the International Cricket Council (ICC) website as his players celebrated in the stadium’s terraces. “It’s been a pretty big two years, for them to achieve this is pretty special.”
The former Queensland fast bowler said planning for the World Cup in Australia next year could wait. “We’ll start thinking about that later. We are just going to enjoy the moment. For them to achieve this is a great thing for us and for the nation.”
PNG were facing disaster as they slipped to 19-6 in four overs but Norman Vanua led the recovery, clubbing 54 from 48 balls and sharing a seventh wicket partnership of 77 with Ses Bau.
Kenya needed to reach the target of 118 in 12 overs to have any chance of qualifying for the play-offs but the batsmen were unable to get out of first gear. Opener Irfan Karim was the only person to hit a boundary and top-scored with 29 as Kenya slid to 73 all out.
Nosaina Pokana was the most successful of the PNG bowlers with 3-21.
Ireland also made sure of a place in the finals in Australia courtesy of results elsewhere going in their favour, with Jersey defeating Oman on the final day of group-stage action.
Jersey made 141-7 and then limited Oman to 127-9 to win by 14 runs.
As well as reaching next year’s showpiece, both PNG and Ireland will also progress to the semi-finals of the ongoing qualifying tournament, where they play the winners of the two semi-final play-offs.
The first of those will see Netherlands, who finished second in Group ‘A’, face UAE as the third-ranked team in Group ‘B’. The winners of that match will face Ireland while they will also qualify for the World Cup.
The other semi-final play-off will see Namibia meet Oman, after the two finished third in Group ‘A’ and second in Group ‘B’ respectively. PNG await the victors, who will also reach the finals in Australia.
Scotland and Hong Kong, who finished fourth in their respective groups, will now take part in the fifth-place play-off semi-finals.
There they will take on the defeated side in each of the semi-final play-offs, with the winners of each match also qualifying for the T20 World Cup. Cricket was introduced into PNG in the early 1900s by British missionaries but the national teams have struggled to make an impression on the world stage until recently.
The men’s ‘Barramundis’ team were awarded One-day International status by the ICC in 2014 and they have benefited from development grants from neighbouring cricket power Australia.
“The fact that Papua New Guinea have qualified for their first Men’s T20 World Cup in 2020 is one of modern cricket’s amazing feel good stories,” commentator and former West Indies fast bowler Ian Bishop tweeted.
India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin also hailed PNG’s entry to one of cricket’s biggest global stages.
“So PNG qualifies for the T20 World Cup!! It’s amazing to see the game expanding globally and will surely bring more young ones to play the great game,” he tweeted.
Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2019