PNG beat pre-tournament favourites Netherlands by five wickets to claim their third win of the group stage and edge closer to an automatic place in the ICC T20 World Cup next year.
Netherlands won the toss and elected to bat, but were in trouble by the end of the power play. First, Tobias Visee skied a Nosaina Pokana slower ball to mid-on. Max O’Dowd was next to go, mistiming a lofted drive and failing to clear Jason Kila also at mid-on. On a slow deck at the ICC Academy, Sese Bau’s fast off-spin proved a challenge. Bau got one to stop slightly on Ben Cooper who in turn offered a simple catch to the bowler. 37/3 off 5.4 overs.
Seasoned county players Ackermann, Ten Doeschate, and Van Der Merwe perished to a combination of relentlessly accurate bowling and a flawless performance in the field, and at 67/6, things looked grim for the Dutch.
A late counter-attacking 49-run partnership between Pieter Seelaar and Timm van der Gugten (40* off 21 balls) in the last 5.5 overs took Netherlands to a fighting 126/7 off their twenty overs, but it was still unlikely to be enough against a PNG line-up brimming with confidence.
Early wickets were the key, and when Tony Ura was dropped at backward square-leg off Paul Van Meekeren, one felt it wasn’t Netherlands day. As has become the norm this tournament, Ura and Captain Assad Vala guided PNG through the power play unblemished and at 47/0 in the eighth, things were looking pretty.
The Dutch bowlers fought hard to peg PNG back, Van Der Merwe in particular at his usual probing best. At 107/5 with 19 balls remaining may have imagined the probable. Sese Bau showed composure and skill as he struck three fours of the eleven balls to ensure a comfortable victory for the Barramundis.
In his post-match interview, Vala spoke almost nonchalantly of his team’s focus on getting the basics right. “We try to out-field every opponent we play against…this is one of our strengths,” he said. Today they went three steps further against one of the best teams at this tournament on paper, out bowling, out batting, and importantly as captain Seelaar noted in his post-game interview, out-running the Dutch.
The Dutch will still feel comfortable with three wins on the board and a game against Bermuda to come. First place will, however, be out of their grasp if they lose to Scotland on the final day of group matches and PNG win their remaining games against Singapore and Kenya.