Papua New Guinea 197/7 (Ura 71, Vala 48, S Bau 26, Frylinck 3 -18) defeated Namibia 116 (Vala 3-19, S Bau 1-15) by 81 runs.
“Very few media scribes or emerging nation cricket fans are tipping Papua New Guinea to figure prominently in the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier and rightly so,” said Ben Stinga in his Qualifier preview of the Barramundis for Emerging Cricket.
Perhaps it is still too early to say, but on account of PNG’s first two results, everyone seems to have got it very wrong.
In a group thrown open by Singapore’s victory over fancied Scotland, today’s game took on even more significance. A Namibia side with a stellar record in 2019 – including three 50-over victories against PNG – would have been keen to put a poor opening performance against Netherlands behind them.
But it was not to be as Tony Ura and Assad Vala continued where they left off against Bermuda with a blistering 125-run partnership off just 74 balls, hitting five sixes between them. Yesterday they set the highest ever T20I partnership for PNG, today they went past it to push the bar higher again.
A Christi Viljoen double strike pegged the Barramundis back, but a second onslaught saw Lega Siaka and Sese Bau plunder 49 runs between the 14th and 18th overs. Left-armer Jan Frylinck bowled a superlative 19th over accounting for Siaka, Bau, and yesterday’s hat-trick hero, Norman Vanua, but a six from Jason Kila in the final over took PNG within touching distance of 200.
For the second time in two days, Namibia’s batting crumbled under pressure. By the seventh over, Niko Davin, big-hitting JP Kotze, Craig Williams, and captain Erasmus were all back in the pavilion. A 33-run partnership between Viljoen and Smit took the Namibians to 80 off 11 overs. But to score 117 runs off 54 balls, with their top order back in the shed, was always going to be a tall order.
80/4 became 86/8 as Smit, Green, and Groenwald succumbed to the wily off-spin of Vala, and from here it was curtains. Captain Vala rightly claimed the Player of the Match honours for his 48 with the bat and 3/19 with the ball.
PNG will be delighted with this display. After yesterday’s ten-wicket win, the Barramundis pretty at the top of Group A with a net run rate of 4.337.
A tough run of fixtures against Scotland, Netherlands, Singapore, and the mercurial Kenya awaits, but it appears the boys from East Asia Pacific have run into form at just the right time (as they did in WCL 2 to secure the last ODI place on offer there).
It is telling that on a flat deck and small ground in Dubai, none of Namibia’s batsmen reached 20. They will need to up their game, and soon, if they are to have any chance of qualifying. Even now, a top two finish seems unlikely, especially with a run rate of -3.125 and games against Scotland and Singapore to come.
But if there is anything emerging cricket teaches us, it is that nothing is certain until the last ball is bowled.