Host Papua New Guinea and Namibia brace up for their upcoming ICC Intercontinental Cup and ICC World Cricket League Championship fixtures hoping to make the promising contests in Port Moresby count.
PNG and Namibia are both on 20 points from three outings each in the ICC Intercontinental Cup with only the United Arab Emirates (UAE) lagging behind them on seven points from four matches in the eight-team competition, which is the pathway to Test cricket.
PNG’s high point in this competition has been a five-wicket victory over the Netherland but it has lost to former champion Afghanistan and reigning champion Ireland by 201 runs and 145 runs, respectively.
Namibia defeated Hong Kong by 114 runs but lost by big margins to Afghanistan and Ireland. It went down by an innings and 36 runs to Afghanistan and by an innings and 107 runs to Ireland.
Ireland leads the points table with 80 points from four matches while Afghanistan is second with 61 points, meaning their match in India in March could be the potential decider of who wins ICC’s premier first-class championship.
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.
PNG captain Assadolah Vala was confident ahead of the matches after his team’s recent exposure tour of Australia.
“This is our first year in terms of playing the longer format of the game. We are a developing cricket nation. We have played some really good cricket and have learnt a lot playing in this format. It's really good for our development playing in this format and against quality opposition.
“In the I-Cup we are just a win away from being in the top-four again and every game for us is really important. We are placed really well in the WCL, two good performance against Namibia can really push us up in the top two. This series is massive for us in terms of where we want to be in the standings,” he said.
PNG, which has ODI status, is currently fourth in the ICC World Cricket League which is led by the Netherlands with 12 points from eight matches. PNG has eight points from six matches while Namibia is placed seventh with two points from six matches. The United Arab Emirates is last in the points table with two points from eight matches.
PNG has won both its matches against 2003 World Cup semifinalist Kenya and also beaten Canada two times. However, it has lost both its matches against the Netherlands.
On the other hand, Namibia has lost both its matches to Nepal as well as Kenya while winning one of its two games against Hong Kong.
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 said his team had some match-winners but it would take a team effort to do well.
“Our preparations have been great. These are crucial games for both teams and it will take a team effort to be successful. We’re not happy with our current standing, therefore, the importance of these next games increases. Currently, we are playing good as a unit. There are exciting times ahead,” Burger said.
Papua New Guinea: Assadollah Vala (captain), Dogodo Bau, Sese Bau, Mahuru Dai, Willi Toua Gavera, Hiri Hiri, Vani Vagi Morea, Alei Nao, Nosaina Pokana, John Boge Reva, Lega Siaka, Chad Aiwati Soper, Tony Ura, Normal Oreta Vanua.
Namibia: Sarel Francois Burger (captain), Stephan Julian Baard, Helao Ya France, Jan Frylink, Zane Green, Jean-Pierre Kotze, Mika Mutumbe, Colin Peake, Johonnes Jonathan Smit, Bernhard Martinus Scholtz, Niolaas Riemert Scholtz, Gerrie Snyman, Waan van Vuuren, Craig George Williams.
Umpires: Chris Brown, Lakani Oala.
Match referee: Steve Bernard
World Cricket League:
Umpires: Chris Brown, Alu Kapa.
Match referee: Steve Bernard.