A beautifully paced innings of 96 from captain Kyle Coetzer proved to be the difference in a well-fought contest in the north of Scotland.
After being put into bat, PNG openers Tony Ura and Gaudi Toka made a steady start against the new ball pairing of Gavin Main and Safyaan Sharif. Main, given Scotland’s first over in his maiden ODI, showed good pace from the off, hurrying Ura into a mistimed pull while gaining good carry through to Matthew Cross behind the stumps. PNG’s leading ODI run-scorer settled quickly, however, and followed up a classy drive to the long-on boundary in the third over with the latest of late cuts for two in the fifth.
Mark Watt, Richie Berrington and Michael Leask were all introduced as Kyle Coetzer rotated his bowlers, but with Ura happy to pick off singles whilst waiting for the boundary opportunity, the opening phase of the visitors’ innings was negotiated with little alarm. A single from Toka brought up the fifty partnership in the twelfth before Ura, taking on Leask with a lofted drive down the ground, saw the ball burst through Sharif’s hands on the boundary for six.
It was the Aberdeen-born off-spinner who had the final say, however, as his next two overs brought the wickets of both batsmen. After Toka (16) feathered a catch to Cross, Ura (46) slog-swept to Craig Wallace on the deep midwicket boundary; PNG, from 63 without loss, were now 70/2.
The introduction of slow left-armer Hamza Tahir quickly brought another as Lega Siaka (2) prodded to Richie Berrington at short-extra, and while Assad Vala and Charles Amini batted resolutely to put together a partnership of 60 for the fourth wicket, Scotland’s spinners kept a tight rein on a scoring rate that consistently hovered at around 4. Amini’s pull in the 29th brought a first boundary in more than 16 overs, and although the left-hander added a second in the 31st, his departure in the next, bowled by Sharif for 32, heralded the start of another run of wickets.
Sese Bau (1) was castled by a quicker one from Leask (3 for 38), while Tahir trapped Vala (36) in front then uprooted Chad Soper’s leg stump as PNG slipped to 151 for 7. A short break for rain provided little let-up as Norman Vanua (5) mistimed a drive to Main at mid-off to give Tahir a fourth scalp on his ODI debut, while Watt found Damien Ravu’s edge for a four-ball duck. A late flurry from Kiplin Doriga (39*) and Nosiana Pokana (6*) saw the total past 200, but at the half-way stage it looked unlikely to be enough.
PNG were encouraged by the early wicket of Matthew Cross, bowled by Pokana for 7, but Kyle Coetzer and Calum MacLeod batted patiently to draw the sting from the visitors’ attack. Coetzer’s back-foot drive for four saw the innings begin to gather pace, and Scotland’s captain followed up another boundary with a six over long-on to take the score to 26 for 1 after ten. MacLeod used his sweep to good effect again for back-to-back fours in the 11th, and although both batsmen stayed vigilant, the required run-rate meant that risks could be kept to a minimum.
Coetzer took the score on to 66 for 1 with a lofted pull through midwicket at the start of the 17th, while another found its way to the rope via a misfield as Scotland moved ahead of the rate two overs later. A beautifully timed push to the extra-cover boundary took the captain to his 15th ODI half-century, but just as his partner appeared likely to follow suit, MacLeod toe-ended a slog-sweep to Pokana at backward square-leg. After a partnership of 91, he was on his way for 36.
Vala claimed another as George Munsey (0) perished to a miscued reverse-sweep, but any glimmer of hope was quickly extinguished as Coetzer and new batsman Richie Berrington took control once more. After coming together at 103 for 3, the two were little troubled as they rattled up a fifty partnership.
Coetzer, imperious as he went through his repertoire of cuts, pulls and drives, moved to 90 with a huge hit down the ground to clear the rope for the second time in the innings. On 96, however, he was denied what would have been a magnificent century as extra pace from Vala (3 for 37) finally penetrated his defences. His team seemed secure, but the unease around the ground was palpable.
Agitation turned to alarm as Berrington (22) fell to a fantastic piece of work from wicket-keeper Kiplin Doriga, who anticipated the batsman’s glance to whip off the bails and peg Scotland back to 168 for 5 at the start of the 40th. With tension building, Michael Leask pulled to the deep midwicket boundary in the 42nd and again in the 44th, while Craig Wallace took the target below 20 with a lofted drive for four over extra-cover.
The pendulum swung this way and that in a thrilling finish. With 12 required, Leask (19) departed, while Safyaan Sharif (7*) took the target down to only 5 with a six down the ground. Only 3 was needed by the time Wallace (11) swept into the hands of Rovu, and with 11 balls still remaining, the result was safe. Mark Watt (4*) swept through the covers for four to confirm Scotland’s win with seven balls to spare.