It was a mismatch. Papua New Guinea were out of the contention of a Super 12 spot but must have had the aspiration of bidding adieu on a high. The resilient spirit they are known for in the Associate circuit had been missing in this campaign and exhibiting the same must have been their top most priority. Instead, they were battered to an 84-run defeat by their biggest challenge in the campaign, a Test-playing nation in Bangladesh.
Asked to bowl first, PNG did start well. Kabua Morea dismissed Mohammad Naim off the second ball of the innings, piling on Bangladesh’s misery against the new ball. They had them restricted to 40 for one in the Powerplay. However, Bangladesh only moved from strength to strength to overcome their rusty self with a complete performance. All-rounder Shakib Al Hasan was at helm again with his all-round contribution - 46 off 37 balls before snaffling four wickets for 9 runs. Skipper Mahmudullah stepped up with a high-class fifty, amassing 50 off 28 balls.
Bangladesh, with a net run rate of +1.733 and four points in the kitty, ensured a place among the elite teams after a shocking opening game defeat against Scotland.
"Obviously, it was a setback, the first game (vs Scotland), but in the T20 format the team that is better on the day wins. But now the pressure is off and we can play expressively," Shakib, who was adjudged 'Player of the Match', said after the game. Shakib has now won the award in each of Bangladesh’s last six wins in ICC events, dating back to the 2017 Champions Trophy.
"It's not an easy format to get back into form, but luckily I'm getting more chance to bat up the order. A little tired, I've been playing non-stop cricket for the last five-six months, it's been a long season for me. But hopefully I can pull this tournament off," he sounded confident.
Skipper Mahmudullah, who himself played a captain's knock was happy to see the intent of his players in the last two games which they won convincingly.
"I think it was much-needed. The way that we wanted to play, the intent was there from the batters. Having said that I think the wicket was better in comparison, so the batters did well to get 180," Mahmudullah said at the post-match presentation ceremony.
Mahmudullah, although, feels that Powerplay batting is still a concern for Bangladesh. "I think the two things we've been concerned about are the first six overs with bat and ball. If we get a good start, we can capitalize, so I think we need to improve on that.
"I've said it before - we're much more skilled hitters than big hitters. So we need to find the bowlers we can take on on that particular day and we need to figure that out and communicate with the others as experienced batters," the skipper said.
Chasing 182, Papua New Guinea was never on-course for a comfortable chase. They lost openers Lega Siaka (5) and skipper Assad Vala (6), cheaply, as they slipped to 13 for two.
It was a procession for PNG batters, as Shakib, the wily-old fox, snared two wickets in the 5th over, as Bangladesh were eyeing a massive victory after reducing the opposition to 14 for four.
While Shakib scalped another two, he was well complimented by young off-spinner Mahedi Hasan (1/20), as the inexperience of PNG batters came to the fore and they were reduced to 29 for seven. The wicketkeeper batter, Kiplin Doriga chipped in with an unbeaten 46 from 34 balls. It was kind of knock PNG needed from their top-order which didn’t turn up. Their innings folded for 97 in 19.3 overs. Ultimately, it was an easy victory for Bangladesh, culminating their all-round performance to step into the Super 12 stage.
PNG skipper, Assad Vala admitted that moving forward his team would want to execute their skills more efficiently under pressure. “Against a really good team you need to be up for it. We can take back executing our skills under pressure, we weren't good enough. We know we could've done well. So next time if we get the opportunity, we'll try to change it”, said Vala concluding his team’s first ever campaign in a senior World Cup.