Papua New Guinea’s men’s team have never played at a major International Cricket Council tournament, in any format of the game, but that will change next year after the Pacific island nation secured qualification for the 2020 Twenty20 World Cup in thrilling fashion.
History was made at a qualifying tournament after the Barramundis first beat Kenya by 45 runs at the Dubai International Stadium and then watched from the stands as the Netherlands, crucially, faltered against Scotland. That result meant PNG, who topped their qualifying pool heading into the final day of group stage matches in the UAE, booked their place at October’s tournament in Australia.
Victory over Kenya did not come easy, and PNG made life tough for themselves by falling to a potentially disastrous 19-6 inside four overs. But Norman Vanua came to the crease and dug in for a 48-ball 54 to steady the ship and guide his team to 118 off 19.3 overs. In response, Kenya could make only 73 from 18.4 overs, as PNG captain Assad Vala took three wickets for just seven runs, and Nosaina Pokana 3-21.
In the later game, the Netherlands beat Scotland by four wickets, but failed to win inside 12.3 overs and as such could not topple PNG from top spot in the group on net run rate – nor snatch the one automatic World Cup qualification spot on offer.
It caps a roller-coaster few years for PNG, who lost their one-day international and T20I status with the ICC in March 2018, and did not reclaim them until April this year. Coach Joe Dawes, the former Queensland fast bowler, admitted his team was a “little emotional” after qualification was confirmed.
“It’s been a pretty big two years with what the boys have been through,” Dawes said. “For them to achieve this is pretty special. The boys and PNG Cricket have had an interesting year and for them to achieve this is a great thing for us and for the nation, and for all the staff back at home who didn’t make the trip.
“The boys have bought into what we try to do. It’s been a challenge with the education, language and facilities and bits and pieces. We’ve got some work to do in 50-over cricket but we knew Twenty20 was our format. To come here and achieve this is a dream come true.”
Captain Assad Vala said: “Words can’t express how we’re feeling at the moment. We worked really hard to go where we are. We came in with not good form but our play all throughout the week has been outstanding.”
Ireland also booked their place at next year’s tournament, but Namibia, UAE, Oman, and Hong Kong will join Scotland and the Netherlands in the playoffs, where four remaining spots in Australia are still to be won.