PNG 154 off 44.2 overs (Vala 82, Heyliger 4/41) lost to Canada 155/7 off 34.2 overs (Jacobs 52*, Pokana 2/20, Vala 2/24) by 3 wickets with 94 balls remaining.
In their first match at Wanderers, Canada today sealed their first win of this WCL2 and in the process kept their hopes of reclaiming ODI status alive. They also dealt a bodyblow to PNG’s already-slim chances in a nervy affair as they chased 155 with just 3 wickets to spare.
In a game of two captain’s knocks, Davy Jacobs trumped Assad Vala’s lone hand as he steadied Canada’s chase through several clumps of wickets. Coming in at 56/4, Jacobs briefly rallied with Ravinderpal Singh, before finding a willing partner in Bhavindu Adhihetty. The pair added 48 serene runs, using the angles to exploit plentiful gaps that appeared as Vala looked slightly defensive in his field placements. Adhihetty again looked in good touch as he sent a perfect paddle-sweep past fine leg, and Jacobs played an eminently sensible hand to stabilise Canada’s chase. The fact that it needed stabilising was a testament to PNG’s efforts with the ball, and their effectiveness at exploiting the self-doubt of a fragile Canadian top order.
Navneet Dhaliwal and Rodrigo Thomas got off to a flying start, peppering the boundary straight as PNG openers Pokana and and Ravu served up a series of juicy half-volleys. A tall left-armer, Pokana was effective once he found his range and utilised his height and angle to extract some awkward bounce. Dhaliwal was the first victim, fending to the keeper Doriga, then new man Gunesekara was cramped for room outside his body as he attempted a cut shot. The double strike sowed seeds of uncertainty as the Canadians continued going hard at bowling that deserved respect.
With Canada chasing a boost to their significant NRR deficit, Assad Vala’s men were playing mind games, and when Vala brought himself on with a ring field to pin Thomas LBW, 155 suddenly seemed a lot further away. Davy Jacobs saw through the smoke and mirrors though, and the seasoned campaigner drew on his extensive experience to steer the Canadians to their first win of the tournament. Not even Vala and Amini doing for Adhihetty and Dutta (bowled and LBW) could throw Jacobs’ concentration as he brought up his 50 with an attractive drive through the covers, before Heyliger finished things off with a pair of muscular heaves through midwicket.
Earlier in the day, Heyliger had set up Canada’s small target with a Man of the Match bowling performance, as he collected 4/41 – including the last wicket of Assad Vala to finish the innings. Vala’s defiant 82 was the definition of a lone hand, as he applied himself and displayed a disciplined technique where the wickets of his teammates tumbled to loose shots. Romesh Eranga set the tone for PNG’s disappointing effort with the bat as he straightened one off the pitch to trap Tony Ura LBW on the first ball of the match. Heyliger then roared into the attack, finding the juicier Wanderers pitch to his liking as he bowled with the most venom of his tournament so far. Chad Soper bore the brunt of his first spell, bounced out by a nasty lifter that he could only fend to gully. Lega Siaka briefly threatened a counterattack as he crunched a pair of hook shots off Heyliger for 6 and 4, but then Nikhil Dutta entered the attack with a double-wicket maiden. He accounted for Siaka with a typically frustrating dismissal (a tame prod that lobbed straight back to the bowler) then Gunesekara grabbed a sharp chance at short cover to remove Sese Bau and leave PNG in tatters at 33/5. When Heyliger struck again a few overs later to put PNG further in the hole at 42/6, it looked a real possibility that they would be bowled out for under 100.
But Vala finally found some support from Norman Vanua (who landed a pair of lusty blows over midwicket) and Jason Kila (who sent a slog sweep out of the ground as it bounced off a barbecue past the rope at midwicket), and Davy Jacobs again let the match slip slightly with inexplicably defensive fields. A swarm of bees briefly interrupted in the innings in the 42nd over, but it took Heyliger’s third spell to sting Vala as he was caught on the rope at long-off.
With Oman and USA securing their ODI status with victories in the other matches, and Namibia almost safe on NRR, Friday is shaping up as a race between Canada, Hong Kong and PNG for a single slot in 4th place as they all chase ODI status. Canada certainly face a steep challenge as they take on their Auty Cup rivals USA who have been flying high this tournament.