Captain Assad Vala was elated after Papua New Guinea’s winning performances against Namibia that helped the team to a creditable fourth in the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup and to the top of the table in the ICC World Cricket League Championship.
“I’m really happy with our performances in both the I-Cup and the WCL. We don't play a lot of longer format cricket but to play good quality cricket and the skills the boys showed was great. Being fourth in the I-Cup is not bad for a country that's never played four-day cricket before,” Vala said.
Vala, who put PNG in a strong position in its first I-Cup match at home with an unbeaten 144 that helped post a total of 311 in the first innings, said his team had improved in the aspects of playing spin bowling, building good partnerships and in running between the wickets.
It was the second win for PNG in the competition and helped it to reach 40 points after four rounds, leap-frogging Scotland and Hong Kong to fourth place. Defending champion Ireland leads the points table with 80 points while former champion Afghanistan is on 61 points.
For Namibia, left-arm spinner Bernard Scholtz finished with 11-170 in the match but a first innings lead of 165 runs provided a big buffer to the home side, which saw Vani Morea (61) top score for PNG in the second innings and Lega Siaka finish with seven wickets in the match.
The winning side will get an opportunity to play the 10th-ranked Test side in the ICC Test Challenge in 2018 and then try to acquire Test status until the next event in 2022, provided it wins the challenge.
In the WCL, the home side completed successful chases with two overs to spare in both matches to place itself at the top of the points table. The two wins took PNG to 12 points with six matches to go.
Dogodo Bau (80 not out), Sese Bau (76 not out) and Lega Siaka (70) helped get to a challenging target of 274 with five wickets in hand in the first ODI.
In the second match, pace bowlers Normal Vauna (3-38) and Willie Gavera (3-39) helped dismiss Namibia for 212 in exactly 50 overs. Openers Vania Morea (67), Vala (55) and Sese Bau (40 not out) then ensured a six-wicket victory, the sixth consecutive win for PNG in the WCL.
“To be equal first with the Netherlands, losing the first two games of this competition (against the Netherlands) and to bounce back and win six in row says a lot about this team. (There is) still a lot of work to be done, we just have to keep working hard and play good quality cricket to maintain this,” Vala said.
The top sides from this tournament, played on a double round-robin basis that gives 14 matches to each team, will join the bottom four sides from the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Team Rankings for the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier, which will be staged in 2018.
Namibia captain Sarel Burger while saying that his team could have done better had the batting line-up clicked, praised PNG’s Vala for his batting as well as captaincy.
“Our batting let us down, especially in the one-day games where we expected to do better. Our all round game was not up to standard. We are not where we want to be and will look to improve in the next rounds.
“We have to improve by getting fitter, faster and sync the batting and bowling to have a good all-round performance. We will be next playing the United Arab Emirates at home in Windhoek, so that will be nice and we will go all out to have a clean sweep against them.”
Kenya and Hong Kong will feature in their WCL matches on 18 and 20 November in Nairobi. The remaining rounds of the WCL and I-Cup will commence in February 2017.
Scores in brief:
ICC Intercontinental Cup:
Papua New Guinea won by 199 runs
Papua New Guinea 311 all out in 98.5 overs (Assad Vala 144 not out, John Reva 45; Bernard Scholtz 5-105, Stephaan Baard 2-23) and 189 all out in 57 overs (Vani Morea 61, Chad Soper 35 not out; Bernard Scholtz 6-65, JJ Smit 3-42).
Namibia 146 all out in 55.2 overs (Sarel Burger 52 not out, Norman Vanua 3-39, Lega Siaka 3-16, Mahuru Dai 2-29) and 155 all out in 61.1 overs (JP Kotze 36, Lega Siaka 4-38, Norman Vanua 3-23).
ICC World Cricket League:
1st ODI, 21 October:
Papua New Guinea won by five wickets
Namibia 273-4 in 50 overs (Craig Williams 109, Wian van Vuuren 60, Sarel Burger 34, JP Kotze 30).
Papua New Guinea 274-5 in 48 overs (Dogodo Bau 80 not out, Sese Bau 76 not out, Lega Siaka 70).
2nd ODI, 23 October:
Papua New Guinea won by six wickets
Namibia 212 all out in 50 overs Nicolaas Scholtz 61, Stephan Baard 54; Norman Vauna 3-38, Willie Gavera 3-39).
Papua New Guinea 213-4 in 48 overs (Vania Morea 67, Assad Vala 55, Sese Bau 40 not out).