The only unbeaten side left in the tournament, PNG must feel that with two group matches remaining, it is within touching distance of a historic first appearance at a major ICC tournament.
After a brief moment of concern in the morning when Nepal raced almost to 50 off the first seven overs, PNG regrouped and delivered a disciplined bowling and fielding performance, dismissing the final Nepal batsman before the completion of the 20th over with the score on 93. John Reva, Mahuru Dai and Assad Vala did the damage with the ball.
Coach Dipak Patel has been pleased and impressed with his side’s performances so far in the tournament but is anxious not to allow his players get ahead of themselves.
“We’re very happy to take every game as it comes – and it’s easier said than done – but this is a new area that these guys are going into now. They’ve never been in this position. It’s our job to make sure they keep their feet on the ground. We have a plan for our next game and that will be the key,” said the former New Zealand player.
But that said, this was a very mature, assured performance by a relatively inexperienced international side and shows the growth in confidence on show as the tournament progresses.
“This is the sort of performance we have been threatening and to polish it off at the end was great,” said Patel. “There has been a fair bit of doubt about us among the other teams but we always had faith that we could and I think we displayed it today. It shows the character that we have and that we can come back. The first few overs we didn’t bowl to our plans but we readjusted and that’s the most pleasing part for me.”
One of the first things the casual observer notices about the PNG players is their excellent fielding. Clearly, it’s something the PNG management had previously highlighted as an area they could gain an advantage.
“It was our goal beforehand that we wanted to be the best fielding side in the tournament. We have always been capable of doing it but we have never done it consistently. To date, we’ve been traveling very well – our outfielding has been very good. We could improve some of our catching but overall I’m very pleased with that aspect of our play.”
But as well as PNG is playing in the tournament, there are other teams lurking, ready to pounce in the event of a stumble. Despite the loss today Ireland remain a single point behind, albeit with an extra game played, while Namibia and Hong Kong are placed just one point further back.
For the Irish, losing to Hong Kong is a massive blow to their hopes of retaining their title and while they can still top the group, that is only if certain results go their way and it looks more likely now that William Porterfield and his team will have to do it the hard way through the quarter-finals.
For HK, on the other hand, this tense five-run win gives it every chance of progressing in the tournament. Irfan Ahmed was the hero with the ball, taking 3-11 off four overs including the crucial wicket of Paul Stirling, who was looking very good on 34 at the time. With a stellar fielding display, Hong Kong held some tough catches and effected two sharp run-outs to back up the bowlers brilliantly.
Meanwhile in Clontarf, a wonderful 90 not out by 17-year-old Jonty Jenner was not enough to earn Jersey its second win in the competition as a man twice his age, Gerrie Snyman, led the Namibian chase with 82 runs of his own, the Africans winning the match by nine wickets.
In Group B, Stephan Myburgh orchestrated an impressive run-chase against the winless Canada as the Netherlands had been set a formidable 173 to win at Heriot’s in Edinburgh. The 31-year-old opener hit six fours and four sixes on his way to a 30-ball 67, ensuring the Dutchmen were always ahead of the rate required. Wesley Barresi (33 off 15 balls), Ben Cooper (19 off 22) and Michael Swart (34 not out off 31) made sure of the win with four wickets down and 15 balls to spare.
Afterwards, Myburgh was happy with the victory and his personal contribution: “This was a must-win game and there was a little bit of pressure on us going in so it was really great to get the result.
“Personally, I didn’t have a great start to the tournament so the last two games it’s started to get a bit better and now I’m really looking forward to tomorrow (Netherlands’ final game of the group stage against Kenya)... We had a team day yesterday when we got away from cricket and it was just what we needed so everyone is back now, fresh and really focussed. We are very confident after how we played today and ready to take it into tomorrow.”
With no unbeaten team left in Group B, there is a good chance that net run-rate could decide the placings of teams level on points.
“We haven’t really thought about net run-rate. We just knew that if we won today and win tomorrow we’ll be right up there. Net run-rate might play a role in deciding the places but for us it’s just about winning our games,” added Myburgh.
The other game in Group B, the Arabian Peninsula derby between UAE and Oman, was abandoned without a ball being bowled as the ground in Stirling was hit with heavy rain overnight and did not recover in time. The teams receive one point each.
At Malahide: Nepal 93 all out, 19.4 overs (Pradeep Airee 29; Assad Vala 2-7, John Reva 2-11, Mahuru Dai 2-13)
PNG 99-2, 14.1 overs (Assad Vala 34 not out, Tony Ura 32)
PNG won by eight wickets
At Castle Avenue: Jersey 161-4, 20 overs (Jonty Jenner 90 not out, Nat Watkins 27 not out; Bernard Scholtz 2-21)
Namibia 164-1, 16.3 overs (Gerrie Snyman 82, Stephen Baard 61 not out)
Namibia won by nine wickets
At Goldenacre: Canada 172-8, 20 overs (Ruvindu Gunasekera 51, Hamza Tariq 42; Michael Swart 2-24)
Netherlands 174-4, 17.3 overs (Stephan Myburgh 67, Michael Swart 34, Wesley Barresi 33; Cecil Pervez 2-26, Nitish Kumar 2-30)
Netherlands won by six wickets
At Stirling: UAE v Oman
Match abandoned. No result – one point each
At Malahide: Hong Kong 129-8, 20 overs (Mark Chapman 30; Kevin O’Brien 3-32, John Mooney 2-18, George Dockrell 2-21)
Ireland 124-8, 20 overs (Paul Stirling 34, William Porterfield 28; Irfan Ahmed 3-11)
Hong Kong won by five runs
Sat, 18 July – Nepal v Jersey, Malahide, Dublin (1000-1310); Scotland v Oman, Goldenacre, Edinburgh (1000-1310); Afghanistan v Canada, New Williamfield, Stirling (1000-1310); PNG v Namibia, Malahide, Dublin (1415-1725); Hong Kong v USA, Clontarf, Dublin (1415-1725); Netherlands v Kenya, Myreside, Edinburgh (1415-1725)