Melbourne: Global cricketers hailed one of the sport’s “feel good” stories of the year on Monday after Papua New Guinea dug themselves out of a huge hole at a Dubai qualifier to book their maiden appearance at the T20 World Cup in Australia next year alongside Ireland.
Emerging cricket nation PNG were 19 for six against Kenya after an early collapse at Dubai International Stadium but ended up thrashing the Africans by 45 runs on Sunday.
PNG then had a nervous wait for the result of the Netherlands’ game against Scotland, but they ultimately topped their group at the tournament due to a higher net run rate and qualify directly for Australia, their first World Cup in any format.
The PNG players celebrated wildly in the stadium’s terraces and their Australian coach Joe Dawes was overwhelmed.
“I am feeling a little emotional,” former Queensland bowler Dawes told the global governing body ICC.
“It’s been a pretty big two years, for them to achieve this is pretty special.”
Dawes said planning for next year’s tournament could wait.
“We are just going to enjoy the moment. For them to achieve this is a great thing for us and for the nation.”
PNG’s automatic qualification came at the expense of the Netherlands, who defeated Scotland but will have to take the play-offs route to reach Australia.
Ireland also made sure of a place in the finals in Australia courtesy of results elsewhere going in their favour, with Jersey defeating Oman on the final day of group-stage action.
Jersey made 141-7 and then limited Oman to 127-9 to win by 14 runs.
As well as reaching next year’s showpiece, both PNG and Ireland will also progress to the semi-finals of the ongoing qualifying tournament, where they play the winners of the two semi-final play-offs.
The first of those will see Netherlands, who finished second in Group A, face the UAE as the third-ranked team in Group B. The winner of that match will face Ireland while they will also qualify for the World Cup.