Yesterday, it was the Netherlands that fell to Oman. Today, the Omanis did it again by taking arguably an even bigger scalp in the form of Afghanistan. And while all that was going on in Scotland, the Papua New Guinea team – 8,700 miles from home – beat defending champion Ireland in its own back yard at Stormont.
Chasing 124 for victory after a good bowling display, PNG knew this was a great chance to become the first team since 2012 to beat Ireland in this competition. But apart from a run-a-ball 32 from Assad Vala, no one else was able to take control of the situation and PNG collapsed to 93-8 in the 17th over with still 31 runs required.
But number-nine batsman Vanua still believed. His 28 crucial runs included four sixes – three of them coming in the penultimate over – and suddenly Group A was blown wide open. This became even truer when, at the same venue later in the day, Hong Kong registered its first victory of the competition, beating the much-fancied Nepal by five wickets.
So in Group A, Ireland is still top with six points but PNG is just one point adrift with three teams – Namibia, Nepal and Hong Kong – level on three points and even Jersey and USA not out of contention for a place in the knock-out stages.
Afterwards, PNG captain Jack Vare resisted the temptation to sing from the rooftops and, instead, was quite circumspect following what was surely one of the best moments in PNG’s recent cricketing history.
He said: “We came here to play another game of cricket. We wanted to go out there and play to the best of our ability. Our plan was to play simple cricket. With the ball we wanted to bowl good lines and lengths and that’s what we did. We always try to learn every time we play, whether it’s in T20, ODI or four-day cricket so today was another great experience that we can learn from going forward.
“We’ve got a good batting line-up and today we didn’t really click. But Norman came out and showed what he can do under pressure. He played very well – I can’t speak highly enough of him – and there were other good performances in the team as well. We will take the positives from this game but we will not look too far ahead. We will just go out the next game and try to do our best again.”
Just as it did against the Netherlands on Tuesday, Oman made a significant dent in the reputation of high-flying Afghanistan with what was a relatively comfortable win at Goldenacre in Edinburgh. Jatinder Singh was the hero with the bat in the Netherlands game and he was in good form again, hitting 40 as Oman reached 144-7 off 20 overs.
But that would have been considered no better than par and with Afghanistan full of exuberant and talented batsmen, the advantage was still with Asghar Stanakzai and his men at the innings break, even more so when the score moved to 60-1 with the talismanic Mohammad Shahzad going well.
But a hideous collapse meant Afghanistan crumbled to 104 all out (four wickets apiece for Zeeshan Maqsood and Mehran Khan) and suddenly, there were no more unbeaten sides in the competition. Bad for Ireland and Afghanistan but great for the neutral supporter and the tournament as a whole.
Man of the match Mehran said: “This is one of the best wins we have had in the recent past. It is great for us to have such a wonderful victory over Afghanistan here today. Yesterday I said to my team that I would be man of the match today and I have proved it.
“This is our third time in the qualifiers and we have never made it into the World Twenty20 but this time things are going very well, the boys are doing excellent work thanks to the coaching of Duleep Mendis and Derek Pringle. We have done five months hard work at home and it’s paying off now.”
In Bready, a formidable bowling performance from USA was too much for Jersey as the Channel Islanders were dismissed for just 87 in 17.3 overs. Naseer Jamali (3-12), Hammad Shahzid (3-22) and the ever-dependable leg-spinner Timil Patel (2-16) did the damage.
In response, following a solid start where Akeem Dodson and Fahad Babar put on 60 for the first wicket, the Americans stuttered but eventually reached their target with five wickets and 4.2 overs to spare.
Kenya cemented its second place in Group B with a 42-run win over UAE at Goldenacre. The Kenyans are now just behind Afghanistan on net run-rate and, with Oman just one point behind those two, it’s all to play for.
At Stormont: Ireland 123-9, 20 overs (William Porterfield 57; Willie Gavera 3-17)
PNG 124-8, 18.5 overs (Assad Vala 32, Norman Vanua 28 not out; Tyrone Kane 3-19, Kevin O’Brien 2-11)
PNG won by two wickets
At Bready: Jersey 87 all out, 17.3 overs (Naseer Jamali 3-12, Hammad Shahid 3-22, Timil Patel 2-16)
USA 88-5, 15.4 overs (Akeem Dodson 31, Fahad Babar 30; Nat Watkins 3-15)
USA won by five wickets
At Goldenacre: Oman 144-7, 20 overs (Jatinder Singh 40, Zeeshan Ahmad 29; Mohammad Nabi 3-28, Aftab Alam 2-38, Shapoor Zadran 1-14)
Afghanistan 104 all out, 17.5 overs (Mohammad Shahzad 28; Zeeshan Maqsood 4-23, Mehran Khan 4-24)
Oman won by 40 runs
At Stormont: Nepal 109 all out, 20 overs (Sharad Vesawkar 27; Haseeb 4-16, Irfan Ahmed 2-30)
Hong Kong 110-5, 19.1 overs (Nizakat Khan 25; Basant Regmi 4-16)
Hong Kong won by five wickets
At Goldenacre: Kenya 147-5, 20 overs (Rakep Patel 50, Narendra Patel 42, Collins Obuya 37; Umair Ali 2-24, Mohammad Naveed 2-25)
UAE 105 all out, 17.2 overs (Narendra Patel 4-16, Elijah Otieno 3-14, Nehemiah Odhiambo 2-20)
Kenya won by 42 runs
Thurs, 16 July – Scotland v Canada, Goldenacre, Edinburgh (1000-1310)