Namibia’s win in the fourth game against the USA, the hosts, set the tone for a late rally in this series. They successfully consigned Papua New Guinea to consecutive defeats, leaving them winless after eight League 2 games.

Game 5

Papua New Guinea 219-8 in 50 overs (Charles Amini 44, Assad Vala 38, Zhivago Groenewald 3-46, Bernard Scholtz 2-26)

Namibia 222-6 in 48.2 overs (Gerhard Erasmus 88, JP Kotze 43, Nosaina Pokana 2-30)

The trend of low-scoring thrillers continued on another pleasant day at Lauderhill. Assad Vala, the PNG skipper, chose to bat first and put some runs on the board.

As it had earlier in the series, the early introduction of spin paid dividends. Off-spinner Pikky Ya France dismissed Gaudi Toka in his first over – Toka missed out on a cut and was bowled. Zhivago Groenewald, Namibia’s consistent spinner, dismissed Tony Ura three overs later. Ura missed a sweep off a full, straight delivery, and adjudged LBW

Assad Vala and Lega Siaka added exactly 50 runs between them; the best partnership of the innings. Groenewald yet again was Namibia skipper Gerhard Erasmus’ trump card, luring Vala into a mistimed slog-sweep, and the captain himself pouching an easy catch at midwicket.

Scoring quickly was a difficult task, and regular wickets pegged PNG back, whenever they were in search of quick runs. The slowness of the surface was evident, as Bernard Scholtz, another left arm spinner, made sure the run rate was below 4. Groenewald finished with three wickets, with Scholtz taking two.

Not one PNG batsman passed 50, but a few late blows from Norman Vanua, who made a run-a-ball 30, propelled the score to 219 for 8 at the close.

Namibia’s chase was expected to be pretty straightforward, but it initially was a slow start from openers Stephen Baard and Karl Birkenstock, courtesy a tight opening spell from fast bowlers Vanua and Nosaina Pokana. 32 runs were added in 10 overs but the work was undone in the space of 8 balls when both were dismissed.

The highlight of the chase was the counter-attack from JP Kotze and Gerhard Erasmus. Kotze was the more watchful of the two, and Erasmus periodically attacked the poor deliveries from the spinners, connecting with pulls and slog-sweeps.

It seemed like PNG didn’t have an answer; the 124-run partnership went on for 23 overs. At last, Vanua provided the breakthrough when Kotze mistimed a pull to deep midwicket.

Williams’ 36 guided Namibia home. (ICC/Peter Della Penna)

Erasmus had already crossed 50, but Vala dismissed Zane Green for 1 in the very next over. However, the experienced Craig Williams arrived, and a crucial 29-run stand pushed Namibia closer. Erasmus’ wicket fell while he tried to play a big shot, and Jan Frylinck was bowled by Pokana.

However, it was too little too late for Papua New Guinea – Williams eased his way to an unbeaten 36 from 43 balls to take his side over the line. It was Namibia’s second win in the series.

Game 6

The tri-series in Florida culminated with another cracker of a game between the two visiting sides. A strong all-round performance from Namibia helped round off a productive event, while Papua New Guinea lost their eighth consecutive game in League 2.

Papua New Guinea handed an ODI debut for medium pacer Riley Hekure. Namibia won the toss, and elected to bat.

The decision proved to be a fruitful one early on, as Stephen Baard and JP Kotze added 60 for the first wicket. It was spin for the win again, as Assad Vala’s offspin bowled Kotze with just a hint of turn.

Craig Williams came in at first drop, and cobbled a 64-run stand with Baard, who went on to score a half-century. Vala was the partnership breaker once again, inviting an attempted slog from Williams, which went as far as long-on.

Baard was the rock of this batting lineup, putting together a solid 73 from 97 deliveries, batting through more than two-thirds of the innings. Middle-order cameos from Zane Green, JJ Smit, and Jan Frylinck added the much-needed impetus after Baard’s wicket.

JJ Smit launches a cover dive over the infield. (ICC/Peter Della Penna)

It seemed like 280 was within reachable distance, but superb death bowling from left-arm pacer Pokana limited the late-innings acceleration. An important triple-strike polished off most of the lower order, and Namibia would finish at 260 for 9, a strong total given the nature of the batting track.

PNG got off to a positive start early in the chase, with Tony Ura smacking Frylinck for a six in the second over. While Ura was carrying on with his attacking approach, rookie opener Simon Atai chose to dig in and provide stability. Ura’s knock was cut short when he tried to go downtown off Frylinck, holing out to long-on.

The first wicket might have been an early advantage, but Atai and captain Vala both got to work. Atai remained reserved, while Vala connected with a few imperious shots against spin. Groenewald and Ya France, the steady performers from last game, weren’t so lucky this time around.

Unfortunately for PNG, Bernard Scholtz dismissed Atai, who missed a sweep and got bowled. This wicket would spark a middle-order capitulation – Lega Siaka, Charles Amini, Kiplin Doriga, and Riley Hekure all departed for single figures, and Scholtz took another three wickets. 104 for 2 soon turned to 128 for 6.

Vala passed fifty and pressed on, with Hiri Hiri providing priceless company. Pressure finally got to Hiri, who spooned a catch to long-off in the quest for quick runs. The asking rate was rising, but Vala did superbly to keep it within control. He finally reached a century – only the second of this series, but Norman Vanua’s dismissal was the eighth wicket.

Assad Vala salutes his team, while sporting an EC sticker on the back of his bat. (ICC/Peter Della Penna)

With 51 to get from the final six overs, it was soon to be crunch time for PNG. Sadly, Vala’s run out in the very next over burst the bubble for the Barramundis, who were yearning to get on the board in this series. Jason Kila’s wicket ended the PNG innings at 233, 27 runs short.

That wraps up Round 2 of CWC League 2. Namibia have eclipsed USA after both wins, and are now second on the league table. A forgettable start quickly transformed into a finish to remember. Namibia are set to play again in Round 4 in January 2020.

PNG have lost all their games thus far, and their next round isn’t until June of next year. There will be plenty of time to regroup and reflect on missed opportunities and performances that just happened to come up short.

All in all, it has been a great event – the first time America has ever hosted one-day internationals, and it definitely has exceeded expectations. There were close contests, tight finishes, and despite the rain threats, all games went to completion. ODI cricket will return to the US in March, when they host Scotland and the UAE. But the immediate focus will be December’s tri-series against Scotland and UAE – in the UAE.

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