PNG into the final as Namibia squeezed out

2nd semi-final: PNG 130/5 (Bau 40*, Amini 31; Smit 2/29) defeated Namibia 112/5 (Baard 34, Kotze 30; Vanua 2/16) by 18 runs.

Papua New Guinea today continued their dream run at the T20WCQ as another brilliant performance from Norman Vanua provided a late-innings flurry with the bat and a decisive spell with the ball. Opting to bat first on a damp track that had already seen Ireland struggle to chase, PNG were under pressure early after a limp powerplay took them to just 32/3.

The dangerous Tony Ura was first to go in the third over, victim of an astonishing catch by Namibian skipper Gerhard Erasmus, who plucked a skied on-drive from Smit with a backhanded grab from over his shoulder as he dived forward.

Namibia Gerhard Erasmus
Gerard Erasmus took a brilliant catch to dismiss Tony Ura. Photo: ICC

Erasmus’ opposite number Assad Vala was out next over as he top-edged a pull shot off a Viljoen length delivery that sailed over the keeper’s head to Ben Shikongo running around from short fine leg. Shikongo himself then claimed the next wicket as Lega Siaka couldn’t get enough power on his pull shot and it flew straight to Niko Davin about ten metres in from the square leg boundary.

Then came the recovery effort, with new batsmen CJ Amini and Sese Bau uniting to keep out a probing spell from the ever-miserly Bernard Scholtz, while Erasmus pinched a few overs with his deceptively accurate offspin. As well as the disciplined bowling, Namibia’s fielders kept a lid on scoring, and the ability to hustle through overs kept the batsmen from finding a rhythm. It was a tactic the PNG would use to good effect later.

CJ Amini was solid through the middle overs on his way to 31 (28). Photo: ICC

The introduction of Zhivago Groenewald let the pressure off as he went for 13, reverse-swept to the fence by Amini who then had a stroke of luck as he thrashed at one outside off and edged through the fine third man for another 4. His luck ran out next over though, as he stepped down the track looking to go inside out, but Erasmus’ offspinner turned away to leave him stranded as Green collected and smashed the stumps. At 81/4 after 14 overs PNG were wobbling towards a subpar total.

New man Kiplin Doriga injected some urgency as he skipped down to Scholtz and timed a powerful golf swing into the stands at midwicket, then Sese Bau followed his lead by clearing the front leg and hoicking an innocuous trundler from Craig Williams (brought on instead of Ben Shikongo, in an interesting decision by Erasmus) into the fence at midwicket. Doriga perished in the 17th, slapping Smit high and long to Erasmus at long-off. This brought PNG’s star allrounder Norman Vanua to the crease and he immediately ran hard to thwart the fielders, before he showed his power with a swatted 6 off Smit in the 19th over that sailed high and just long enough over the rope at long-on (despite a tumbling effort from JP Kotze). But Namibia closed out well through an exemplary final over from Viljoen, who nailed his yorkers to concede just four singles. It took PNG to a respectable 130/5 but they would need to bowl well to keep a power-packed Namibian lineup from reaching the target.

PNG Norman Vanua Sese Bau
A late flurry from Norman Vanua (20*) assisted Sese Bau in taking PNG to a competitive total. Photo: ICC

Fortunately for PNG, bowling is a strength of theirs, with plenty of options (8 men took the ball in Namibia’s innings), and excellent support from the field. Tall left-arm seamer Nosaina Pokana started perfectly with a maiden as he kept Stephen Baard quiet with a jamming length. Jason Kila’s left-arm finger spin did for Niko Davin next over, who played an expansive drive against one that slid into him, going along with the arm from around the wicket. This brought the explosive JP Kotze to the crease, though his form has been patchy throughout the qualifiers. 

Namibia Niko Davin
Niko Davin was bowled for a duck off his second ball. Photo: ICC

Looking to hit himself back into form, Kotze nailed a maximum off Pokana (swinging into a drag-down to send it flying over square leg), and then pulled 6 and 4 off similarly short deliveries from Ravu. In between the boundaries, however, he struggled for fluency, swinging hard without connecting and mistiming several slogs. Norman Vanua’s first over – the last of the powerplay – tied him in knots as he again tried to hit himself out of trouble and was again denied by disciplined lines. At 35/1 after 6, it was Namibia’s game to lose, with a required run-rate under 7 and 9 wickets in hand. The next over it became 8, with Kotze finally out – though perhaps a little unlucky to be adjudged LBW off an Amini legspinner that caught his foot on the full. Beaten through the air by a loopier delivery, he missed the sweep shot, but the ball looked to be sliding past the offstump.

Now was the time for PNG to apply the squeeze, and with spinners Amini, Kila and Assad Vala hustling through their tidy overs, the Namibian batsmen in Baard and Williams looked increasingly frustrated at the fot balls piling up. The team with the most sixes at the tournament, Namibia are not accustomed to going long without a boundary, but in the absence of power hitting, they were struggling to rotate the strike and at least collect 1s and 2s.

Namibia Stephen Baard
Stephen Baard kept Namibia in the chase with 34 (40). Photo: ICC

Baard finally cleared the rope in the 14th over when he latched onto Assad Vala to flick him powerfully over midwicket, the shot coming some 32 deliveries after the previous boundary (his reverse sweep off Amini in the 9th). But this would prove to be the last boundary of the innings (save for a JJ Smit strike on the last ball of the failed chase). With the required rate climbing, and the chase batsmen sinking like quicksand, Craig Williams tried to clear extra cover only to be caught as he slashed it straight to the man on the ring. Baard followed the next over as he slammed a straight drive directly back to Jason Ravu, who snared it in his follow through. The catch did some damage to his left (non-bowling) hand, and Riley Hekure had to complete the over as Ravu went off briefly for treatment. 

After that, Vanua and Pokana closed out the innings – Pokana jamming batsmen back of a length and Vanua nailing his yorkers (including a perfect under-the-bat effort to bowl Erasmus, who was backing away to give himself room through off), as Namibia’s trump card, JJ Smit, was unable to free his arms and start hitting. The moisture in the pitch kept it a little slow, which added to the difficulties for the Africans, but PNG were relentlessly disciplined and Namibia’s chase was strangled.

PNG Norman Vanua
Norman Vanua returned the excellent figures of 2/16 off his 4 overs to help strangle the Namibian chase.

And while the intensity was perhaps not as high as previous games (with both teams already having secured qualification to the T20 World Cup next year), the way Namibia were tied down in the absence of sixes may hint at an area to work on before their next assignment.


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