By HUXLEY LOVAI
THE ability of Papua New Guinea’s batsmen to kick on after getting good starts will be key to their chances of winning their two-game World Cricket League Championship series against Scotland which starts today.
With the drawn Intercontinental Cup match behind them, the Hebou PNG Barramundis will be out to secure their first win of the series.
The Barramundis face off against the Scots in their first home One Day International fixtures at Amini Park.
The second ODI is on Sunday. The two matches start at 9.30am.
With the wicket proving to be flat over the four days of play during the ICup fixture, the batting order of both sides would be hopping to turn their team’s fortunes around with competitive totals.
The Barramundis batting has shown that they have the runs in them, with the top order making promising starts in the ICUP fixture.
Unfortunately for PNG, none of their batsmen stuck around long enough to make a game-changing total.
Opener Tony Ura (75), bowling allrounder Chad Soper (60), and middle order batsmen Assad Vala (61 not out), Sese Bau (51) and Lega Siaka (48 and 83) have all shown they can score runs but no one has played a series-defining innings yet. They will however be out to prove a point on their home turf.
Batting allrounder Mahuru Dai, who hit 126 from 67 balls during a 50-over match against Western Grit last month in Darwin, is one to watch.
PNG coach Jason Gillespie has taken a cautious approach in preparing the team for the two 50-over matches.
“We have had some light sessions, because we are really conscious of the fact that the lads have spent a lot of time in the field,” Gillespie said.
“It’s just about fine tuning working on basic skills, the lads have done all the preparation really with the month spent in Australia. The important thing is to get the team mentally ready for the challenge ahead.”
Scotland on the other hand have proven themselves more than capable of coping with the heat and humidity of Port Moresby.
Where other visiting teams have withered under the heat, Scotland have adapted and performed in local conditions.
Richie Berrington’s 129-run knock (off 297 balls) was a testament to the Scottish resolve.
For the Scottish bowling attack Safyaan Sharif’s first innings figures of four for 94 prove that the Scott’s have the ability to trouble any batting order on a flat wicket.
Scotland coach Grant Bradburn said ominously that his side felt more comfortable and accustomed to playing the limited over format.
“We’re very comfortable with white ball cricket, and we’re very confident with the way our one-day game is going. We have a very strong team, there’s going to be same selection headaches with some very good players missing out in our 11,” Bradburn said.
“We now know a lot more about the PNG players, and what to expect from the conditions. One-day cricket is a format that we enjoy, we feel comfortable playing it. The players are getting better all the time and very confident of in their one-day game.”
These two WCLC fixtures are crucial as the battle for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 intensifies, with the top four WCLC Teams advancing to the Global World Cup Qualifier next year.
The PNG Barramundis and Scotland trail table-toppers Netherlands (16 points) by two and three points respectively.
By HUXLEY LOVAI