Papua New Guinean domestic cricket resumes post COVID-19

Isaac Lockett recap's on the action from both the Men's 50 competition and women's 20 over Competition which have restarted in Papua New Guinea

With the news that cricket was able to return in Port Moresby following an enforced break created by COVID-19, Cricket PNG commenced the restart of Isuzu National Cup Round 2 and launched the Curtain Bros Cricket PNG Women’s T20 Smash. 

The Women’s T20 Smash started on the 17th of August, with four teams competing in the competition. Each of the sides is captained by a senior member of the PNG Women’s team.

The tournament sees current women’s national team captain Kaia Arua lead last year’s champions who have now changed their name from The Ela Motors sponsored Cassowaries to The Hino Cassowaries.

Tanya Ruma captains the Hastings Black Bass while Brenda Tau leads the Trakpro Mudwomen in the competition. The ODG Mariners will be captained by off-spinner Sibona Jimmy.

Last season’s champions The Ela Motors sponsored Cassowaries holding up the Shield (Photo: Cricket PNG)

The first matchday of the Women’s T20 Smash saw the ODG Mariners coming up against the Hastings Deering Black Bass and The Hino Cassowaries opening their tournament against the TrakPro MudWomen.

All fixtures will take place at the national stadium, Amini Park, with Cricket PNG providing score updates on Twitter. 

Complications created by the ongoing pandemic meant that the Women’s national team coach, Kirsten Beams, has been unable to travel to the country for the tournament.

Men’s national coach Joe Dawes said whilst this is unfortunate it is an opportunity for local cricket coaches to step up to the mark in Beams absence.

“It is uncertain times and this has unfortunately led to the unavailability of our Lewas coach Kristen Beams attending,”

“This provides others with opportunity though, Lewas assistant coach Mahuru Dai and the franchise coaches will do a great job and we are looking forward to seeing the women showcase their skills throughout the tournament,”

“We have a window of opportunity at the moment to continue our Isuzu National Cup and the Curtain Bros T20 Smash series, we will grab it with both hands and get some long overdue competitive cricket into our squads,” Dawes said.

The bigger picture has not been lost on Cricket PNG who are capitalising on the opportunity to play cricket.

The return of domestic cricket on the island nation is an exciting prospect for Papua New Guinean cricketers with potential opportunities abroad during the upcoming Australian summer.

‘“We have condensed our national programs with a view of finishing both the Isuzu and Curtain Bros series by the end of September thus allowing us the opportunity, COVID willing, for our national players to obtain sponsored positions in the Australian domestic system over summer,”

With players looking to impress to gain further international opportunities, coaches looking to solidify world cup plans and plenty of chances for players to break out and make a name for themselves on the domestic circuit there is a lot to play for. 

With the T20 World Cup now delayed till 2021 and taking place in India there is plenty of initiative for Papua New Guinean’s finest cricketers to press their claim for a world cup spot.

Match reports: Curtain Bros T20 Smash

Game 1:  ODG Mariners Vs. Hastings Deering Deering Black Bass

ODG Mariners 119-8 (20 overs), Kila Frank 31 (41 balls) and Lucy Ben 2 -17 (4 overs) defeated Hastings Deering Black Bass 65 (16.5), Hane Donald 12 (13) and Uve Noxa 2-5 (2) & Sibona Jimmy 2-11 (4) by 55 runs.

The tournaments curtain-raiser saw the ODG Mariners beat the Hastings Deering Black Bass by 55 runs.

The opening game displayed the talent displayed by the ODG Mariners with a fantastic all-round display but some good performances show that the Black Bass are not to be underestimated.

The Mariners batted first and scored 119-8 with a fantastic performance from Kila Frank who scored 31 in a well-paced inning helping to anchor the team’s innings.

Black Bass bowler Lucy Ben bowled fantastically well and finished with figures of 2-17 from her allotted 4 overs. However, with it being the first game of the tournament, it was impossible to tell whether the score would provide to be a steep chase.

The Mariners bowled fantastically and were able to make early breakthroughs. The Black Bass was unable to build any momentum during their chase and were eventually bowled out for 65; with  Uve Noxa 2-5 & Sibona Jimmy 2-11 impressing for the Mariners. 

Game 2: Hino Cassowaries Vs TrakPro Mudwomen

Hino Cassowaries 124-4 (20), Kaia Arua 56* & Naomi Vare 36; Initia Vagi 2-11 defeated TrakPro Mudwomen 89-9 (20), Brenda Tau 22 & Mauri Tom 22; Isabel Toua 3-18 & Kaia Arua 3-7 by 35 runs.

During this match, the Cassowaries won the toss and elected to bat. A fantastic batting performance by the Cassowaries meant that Hino reached 124-4 from their allotted 20 overs.

A crucial 73 run partnership by Kaia Arua (56*) and Noani Vare (36) meant that the team carried consistent momentum throughout their innings which was then continued by Boio Diho who scored 20 off 19 balls.

Initia Vagi was the pick of the bowlers for the Mudwomen, finishing with fantastic figures of 2-11 from her 4 overs.

In response, the Mudowmen started their chase well and looked on course to win the game, with Brenda Tau and Mauri Tom leading the chase. However, a good bowling display from the Cassowaries meant that wickets fells at regular intervals during the last nine overs seeing the Mudwomen fall 35 runs short.

A fantastic bowling display from Hino saw contributions from both Isabel Toua 3-18 and Kaia Arua 3-7; with a bowling attack performing like that there is always a possibility of the Cassowaries winning back to back tournaments. 

When talking about the opening round of matches, PNG men’s coach Joe Dawes reflected on the high skill level seen in the tournament from the players.

“It was great to see some good performances from our PNG Lewas and upcoming players in the first two games,”

“We saw some really good hitting… It’s also a good sign that both teams were taking wickets, but we need to work on our discipline – they bowled a few too many extras today.”

“We can put that down to the lack of competitive cricket for a long while… I’m looking forward to seeing what the other fixtures have to offer” Dawes said.

Running alongside the women’s T20 smash is the men’s 50-Over ISUZU National Cup. With round one being played before the pause in the action, the tournament resumed with Isuzu Yellow coming up against Isuzu Red, again at Amini Park. 

Match report: ISUZU National Cup

Isuzu Yellow 105/5 (Ura 36, Vare 28, Nao 5/14) defeated Isuzu Red 104 (Tau 36, Kila 32 not out, Ravu 4/43) by 5 wickets.

Isuzu Red won the toss and elected to bat first, which brought the opening pair of Tony Ura and Dogodo Bau to the crease.

With a promising partnership of 34 runs at the top of the order, Tony Ura looked in fantastic touch despite the lack of competitive action and scored 34. However, some fantastic bowling and well-timed bowling changes quickly disrupted the initial momentum.

Riley Hekure (2-13) bowled fantastically well and got the wicket of Tony Ura, which unfortunately prevented the Reds from developing any momentum. Bowling in an attack who were all fantastic; the contribution of Alei Nao can not go unmentioned as he picked up career-best figures of 5-15 off 7 overs.

The exciting young talent of Hila Vare, who scored 28, showed real promise and looked to be one of the next prospects to be called into the senior set-up and was a real positive for the Isuzu Red team.

Despite another good contribution from Timothy Mous (13), Isuzu Red were dismissed for 104 in 24.3 overs.

Player of the match Alei Nao(5/14) bowling during the Isuzu Red Innings (Photo: Cricket PNG)

The Isuzu Red team were able to apply some early pressure through a wicket in the first over. However, any potential nerves the Yellows may have had settled back down through a good partnership between Lega Tau (36) and Sese Bau (16).

The match opened up again when Damien Ravu, who had already got the wicket of opening batsman Steven Eno, then picked up the wickets of Bau and Riley Hekure.

Once again, the Yellows prevented panic from setting in through another controlled partnership of 43 between Tau and Jason Kila (36 not out). Despite another wicket for Ravu, who finished with fantastic figures of 4-43 off 8 overs, the Yellows were able to complete the chase with 30 overs to spare. 

With more rounds of both Women’s T20 Smash and the men’s 50-Over National Cup, there is plenty more exciting action to look forward to throughout Papua New Guinea as cricket returns on the island nation.

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