A captain's knock sees Ireland home after PNG's Tony Ura scored a 142-ball 151 in the first innings in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier.
Ireland secured their second win of the Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 with a thrilling final-over victory against Papua New Guinea in their Group A clash at Harare Sports Club on Tuesday, 6 March.
Paul Stirling and skipper William Porterfield kicked off proceedings for Ireland, as they battled to surpass PNG’s total of 236, owed largely to a brilliant hundred by Tony Ura in the first innings. His 151 was the fourth-highest percentage of a team’s total in a completed ODI innings, scoring 64 per cent of his team’s runs.
The left-hand/right-hand combination for Ireland got off to a solid start, with Porterfield taking advantage of some loose bowling, as Alei Nao, Norman Vanua and Mahuru Dai struggled to make an early impression.
It was the spin of Assad Vala who made the first breakthrough. Looking to go big, Stirling (27) swept the off-break bowler to mid-wicket but couldn’t get over it, with Lega Siaka gladly accepting the catch.
Porterfield refused to let his opening partner’s wicket deter him, as he continued in assured fashion, stealing ones and twos and hitting the bad ball to the boundary. Dai and Vala were providing off-spin from both ends, but neither looked particularly threatening in these conditions.
Chad Soper then bowled Andrew Balbirnie, as the Irishman played all around a full, straight delivery, to leave Ireland 76/2. Both Soper and Dai started to halt the previously free-flowing Ireland by taking the pace off. The game was nicely poised at drinks, with Ireland requiring 140 off 174 at 4.82 with eight wickets in hand.
Ireland are in control of their chase against Papua New Guinea, with captain @purdy34 on 55* as they reach the mid-point of their innings on 118/2, needing 119 more runs to win.#PNGvIRE LIVE ➡️ https://t.co/EIMMslwraypic.twitter.com/R5UBOfnDfD— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) 6 March 2018
Porterfield quickly moved onto his fifty and during an important passage of play the experienced left-hand duo, which also comprised Ed Joyce, began to usher Ireland into a commanding position. The skipper continued to take full advantage of anything short with PNG’s attack made to look one-dimensional.
Joyce racked up his fifty in 66 balls – the perfect foil to Porterfield’s more authoritative display – before holing out in the deep. Nao took the chest-high catch off the bowling of Dai – the only mistake by Joyce in an otherwise chanceless knock.
183/3 soon became 188/4 when Vala trapped Niall O’Brien lbw with a flatter and quicker delivery. Once again dispelling fears of a PNG revival, Porterfield helped himself to his century – a fine captain’s knock.
Kevin O’Brien was soon dropped at mid-wicket before the skipper finally departed for 111, outfoxed by a slower delivery from Nao, with Charles Amini providing the catch.
O’Brien then departed via a full and straight Vanua delivery to make it 216/6, but while a late flurry of wickets excited the crowd, Gary Wilson and George Dockrell used every bit of their nous to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Ireland entered the last over with three runs required before Wilson found the boundary with the first ball to conclude a thrilling match.
Earlier, Tony Ura’s fabulous century ensured Papua New Guinea recovered from 80/6 to post 235.
Ura’s 142-ball 151 – the highest score by a PNG batsman in a one-day international – ensured his team weren’t completely dismantled by the Irish bowlers despite losing seven batsmen for single-digit scores.
Ura’s doggedness and a cameo from Soper, who scored 25 – the two put on an 86-run stand for the eighth wicket – frustrated Ireland no end.
After opting to field, Ireland reduced PNG to 24/3 within 12 overs, with Vani Morea run out for 1 before Andy McBrine had both Vala (8), the captain, and Lega Siaka (2) dismissed in quick succession.
Bad became worse when the 18-run stand for the fourth wicket between Sese Bau (3) and Ura was broken, McBrine claiming his third wicket after having Bau caught behind. Dai (1) was dismissed in the same manner by Boyd Rankin soon after, and when Amini (8) was stumped off Stirling, PNG were in dire straits at 80/6.
All the while, however, Ura had kept the scoreboard ticking. He finally found solid support when Jack Vare strode out to the middle, and the two added 37 runs for the seventh wicket.
Fortune went Ura’s way as he was dropped by Porterfield at mid-on, but Vare was then run out just as the partnership had begun to flourish.
However, if Ireland had hoped for another implosion at that point, they were mistaken. With Soper for company, Ura carried on. The two ran intensely between the wickets, allowing Ura to bring up his much-deserved century – it was just the second ODI century for PNG since Siaka’s 109 against Hong Kong in 2014.
In the death overs, Ura accelerated further, taking the aerial route regularly. Soper fell, but Ura farmed the strike and smacked a couple of big sixes – six in total. His enterprise was his undoing as he holed out off Kevin O’Brien with three balls left in the innings, but, despite that, his historic knock ensured PNG were firmly in the game at the half-way mark.
Ultimately, Ireland prevailed, but both teams can walk away from this match with their heads held high.
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