Berrington, Davey star as Scotland top spirited PNG
Papua New Guinea threatened a late heist courtesy the big-hitting Norman Vanua after stumbling to 35 for 5 in a 166 chase, but Scotland's experience and excellent work up until then helped them prevail for their second win of the T20 World Cup, and PNG's second loss.
Scotland now top Group B, but in minimising the margin of defeat, PNG may have ensured they will have to wait till the end of their final game to see if they can progress to the Super 12s or not. In case there is a three-way on two wins each, or on one win each, it will come down to net run-rate.
For PNG, this was a massive improvement from their ten-wicket pounding against Oman. In Vanua and Chad Soper, who had an excellent game with bat and ball, they had two heroic performances that nearly helped them achieve the impossible. In the end, they fell 17 short, having to rue their top order meltdown. When Josh Davey, the fast bowler, picked up the final wicket, to finish with 4 for 18, the relief in the Scotland camp was palpable.
George Munsey looked to premeditate and picked off two boundaries courtesy slog sweeps off legspinner Charles Amini, but fell soon after as he top-edged a heave to square leg in the fourth over. It came on the back of left-arm seamer Kabua Morea giving PNG their first World Cup wicket. Beaten on the outside edge on Sunday, Kyle Coetzer was deceived by a slower delivery that nipped back in to beat his inside edge this time. Richie Berrington and Matthew Cross, in his 50th T20I, then needed to rebuild as Soper's accuracy and late movement kept them honest.
Having struggled early on to gauge the pace of the pitch, Berrington, who had scored five runs in ten balls, broke the shackles by launching legspinner Lega Siaka for a big six down the ground. It proved to be the trigger for him to get going. His quick footwork to fully go back or get right to the pitch helped negotiate the spinners. And Cross' tactful strike rotation ensured Scotland didn't get stuck. He launched the half-century stand off just 44 balls by muscling a slog sweep into the stands, Amini coming in for special treatment. His four wicketless overs would eventually cost 41.
Scotland smashed three fours and three sixes between overs ten and 13, picking 42 off those in all, to signal a significant shift in momentum. Cross was a beneficiary of some friendly long-hops that he put away over the ropes, and PNG's sloppy outfielding also contributed to the run-bleeding. Ironically, it was a long hop that had Cross pulling one to the lone man on the leg side at deep midwicket for a 36-ball 45 in the 15th over. It brought an end to the 92-run third-wicket stand, Scotland's highest for any wicket in T20Is. An excellent final over from Nosaina Pokana, where he executed his yorkers well, and tight bowling from Soper that included the wickets of Calum MacLeod and Berrington in the space of three balls, denied Scotland a final kick after they looked set for 180-plus at one stage. Morea picked up three wickets in his final over with the batters looking for the big hits, finishing with 4 for 31.
PNG came out swinging, lost shape, and lost wickets. The openers fell inside four overs, Assad Vala sparkled briefly before hitting to mid-off, Amini was brilliantly run-out by Michael Leask's rocket throw from the deep as he wandered out for a second, and Berrington plucked a one-handed stunner at backward point. PNG were 35 for 5 inside the powerplay.
Faced with a steep ask, Vanua struck a few meaty blows to keep PNG's interest fluttering. His takedown of Brad Wheal in an 18-run over brought the equation down to 62 off the last five overs. His mantra was simple: clear front leg, keep stable base, and swing like a golfer. As the runs suddenly cascaded, Kiplin Doriga found his hitting range against legspinner Chris Greaves as the 16th over went for 16. Suddenly, the pressure was on Scotland as the pair raised a half-century stand off just 25 balls. Then, the Mark Watt-Matt Cross combine dealt a massive blow to remove a charging Doriga, Cross collecting a full and wide half-volley way outside off to effect a smart stumping. It deflated PNG, who eventually went out with their heads held high.