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Ireland takes on PNG aiming to regain the top spot in the ICC Intercontinental Cup

Ireland takes on PNG aiming to regain the top spot in the ICC Intercontinental Cup
 - Cricket News
Ireland is currently on 40 points, six behind Netherlands, having played one less game.
Ireland travels to Townsville in Australia to play in a crucial third round ICC Intercontinental Cup match against Papua New Guinea (PNG), which begins on Sunday, 31 January. Ireland needs, at least, a draw, with a first innings lead, if it wants to regain the top spot in the four-day first-class competition, which is a pathway to Test cricket.
Ireland is currently on 40 points, six behind Netherlands, having played one less game. An outright win against PNG would earn Ireland 20 points, taking it to 60, while a draw with a first innings lead would add nine points to its tally, enough to take it ahead of the Dutch.
In contrast, victory for PNG would lift it to 40 points, putting it level with its opposing team Ireland, and earn it a four-position promotion up the table.

What is equally relevant to both teams is the opportunity to build on their goal of winning the ICC Intercontinental Cup and qualifying for the ICC Test Challenge, which will be played against the 10th-ranked Test side on a home and away basis in 2018. A win in this series could make the Associate Member side the 11th Test nation.
PNG’s previous record in the ICC Intercontinental Cup reads one loss and one win. The loss came at the hands of Afghanistan in Sharjah late last year by a margin of 201 runs. However, PNG will look for inspiration from its famous victory which came against the current top-ranked side, Netherlands, last summer.
PNG captain Jack Vare-Kevere said the result against Netherlands is an indicator that PNG is capable of getting past even the best teams in the competition.
“Our players don’t play as much four-day cricket as Ireland or Netherlands, however, we are not over-intimidated by these top-ranked teams. We are starting to understand our strengths and weaknesses in this format.
“The players are now really enjoying playing in the longer format and they want to learn and improve every time we play against these strong countries,” said the 29-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman.
PNG players are ranked amongst the top performers in the ICC Intercontinental Cup.
Mahuru Dai is the second highest scorer with 278 runs, behind Ireland’s Ed Joyce who has 436 runs. Amongst the bowlers, PNG medium-pacer Loa Nou is fifth overall with nine wickets in the tournament so far, and no wonder both the coach and captain believe it is possible to win this contest against Ireland.
That belief is holding strong despite knowing that fast bowler Boyd Rankin is returning to Ireland colours and is armed with the experience of a Test, 44 ODIs and 17 T20 Internationals.
PNG coach Dipak Patel said: “Our players welcome the challenge of playing against a player that has played Test cricket. Only time will tell if Boyd’s selection will make a difference.”

Opposite coach John Bracewell believed Rankin will make a huge difference to Ireland’s campaign. “Rankin is a big factor not only because he is an international player, but because he is an internationally proven bowler.”
Buoyed by Boyd’s return, Ireland already enjoys a blemish-free record in the ICC Intercontinental Cup to date, pulling off convincing wins against both Namibia and the UAE. In June last year, it defeated the Asian side by an innings and 26 runs, and in October it handed a similar fate to Namibia winning by an innings and 107 runs.
Ireland though is not making the mistake of under-estimating its opposition. “PNG is obviously a strong side, and although it doesn’t have much match experience, it is clearly a side going forward. We don’t rate it as banana skin, we rate it as true contenders and give it that respect.
“Every match is important to us regardless of whether it is against the Netherlands, PNG or UAE. Our aim is to win and if we win our games, we win the league.”
Another third round fixture between Afghanistan and Namibia will start on 10 April. The venue is yet to be confirmed.
In the forthcoming ICC World Cricket League Championship matches, Nepal will host Namibia at the University Oval, Kathmandu, for two 50-over games. These matches will be played on 16 and 18 April. The top sides from the ICC WCLC will progress to the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier, which will be held in Bangladesh in 2018.

Ireland (from) 
William Porterfield (c), Andrew McBrine, Kevin O’Brien, Niall O'Brien, Andrew Balbirnie, George Dockrell , Ed Joyce, Tim Murtagh, Stuart Poynter, Boyd Rankin, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Gary Wilson, Craig Young
Coach: John Bracewell
PNG (from)
Jack Vare-Kevere (c), Charles Amini, Sese Bau, Mahuru Dai, Hiri Hiri, Vani Vagi Morea, Alei Nao, Loa Nou, Nosaina Pokana, John Boge Reva, Lega Siaka, Chad Aiwati Soper, Assadollah Vala, Norman Oreta Vanua
Coach: Dipak Patel
On-field umpires: Buddhi Pradhan and Vineet Kulkarni
Match Referee: Stephen Bernard
Fixtures- ICC Intercontinental Cup

10-13 April – Namibia vs Afghanistan, venue tbc

Fixtures- ICC World Cricket League Championship

16 April – Nepal vs Namibia (50 over), University Oval, Kathmandu

18 April – Nepal vs Namibia (50 over), University Oval, Kathmandu

Points table

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