PNG claim automatic qualification spot for T20 World Cup

PNG has qualified for their first men's T20 World Cup, holding top spot in Group A on net run rate.

Papua New Guinea has punched their ticket to Australia for the men’s T20 World Cup, finishing top in Group A at the Qualifier in UAE today.

The Barramundis overcame an early scare to defeat Kenya, and held their top spot after the Netherlands failed to chase 131 inside 12.3 overs against Scotland to pass them on net run rate. Watching on, the PNG squad celebrated as the Dutch fell short in their aspirations, as squad members and staff exuded their joy in front of the cameras.

PNG’s players are no strangers to nervous watching of net run rate scenarios, after similar scenes in Namibia earlier this year at World Cricket League 2. In the Barramundi Miracle, PNG overcame all odds to beat Oman on the final day of group stage play, before learning their fate of achieving ODI status while watching a mobile stream of USA’s match against Canada being played out on the other side of town. On this occasion, PNG’s squad were in prime position to see their dreams turn to reality.

PNG's openers stride out to the wicket.
PNG’s opening pair of Ura and Vala have been crucial in their campaign. (ICC)

PNG’s day began horribly, reeling at 19-6 against Kenya with the big guns of Assad Vala, Tony Ura, Legia Siaka and Charles Amini falling cheaply. A counter-attacking 54 from Norman Vanua rescued the situation, as the Barramundis passed three figures, eventually falling for 118.

PNG’s bowlers gave Kenya’s batsmen no quarter, with constant pressure and help from their fielders causing the Kenyans headaches. Only Irfan Karim managed to fight back as the only Kenyan player to pass 20, and the Barramundis were baying for blood knowing that every run mattered. Nosaina Pokana cleaned up the tail, as PNG finished 45-run winners.

Attention then moved to the Netherlands/Scotland match-up, where final placings were to be determined. Needing a tick over ten an over for top spot, the Netherlands started slow, with the pace of the wicket making things difficult.

Ryan ten Doeschate sent a couple of scares through the PNG camp with pummeled pulls towards the short boundary, though the dismissals of Colin Ackermann and Roelof van der Merwe to Mark Watt dried the runs up.

As the likelihood of PNG’s qualification grew, attention was fixed on the squad waiting for their moment. Erupting after their qualification was confirmed, the PNG contingent were congratulated by Dutch coach Ryan Campbell, who gave a thumbs-up from his camp.

For the Barramundis, its a success made sweeter by heartbreak in previous Qualifiers. Losing out to Hong Kong in 2013, PNG fell to a rampant Afghanistan in 2015, only after a defeat at the hands of the USA in their final group game.

The Netherlands threatened PNG’s net run rate, though couldn’t chase a target of 131 quick enough against Scotland. (ICC)

Here’s how the world reacted to Papua New Guinea’s qualification:

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