Fresh from a tough warm up match against current champions West Indies, the Hebou PNG U19 Garamuts move from one tough match to the other, taking on host country New Zealand. This is virgin territory for the Papua New Guinean under 19 team as they have never playedtheir Kiwi counterparts at an Under 19 World Cup.
The New Zealand U19s will want to do better than their last edition in South Africa but the Kiwis have pedigree in this tournament. In 1998, when Papua New Guinea made their debut, New Zealand finished as runners up after a tightly fought final against England in Johannesburg, South Africa.
In recent years though, the New Zealand national Under 19 team has failed to live up to the expectations set by their squads of yesteryear. A semifinal loss to champions Indian back in 2012 was followed by a 10th place finish in United Arab Emirates in 2014 and a 12th place in 2016. The Kiwis have a strong squad for the tournament that is going to be held in their backyard, and they showed their quality in the first warm up match against Zimbabwe – Papua New Guinea’s first opponents in the Group Stage of the 2018 ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup.
After winning the toss, the Kiwis decided to bat and despite a disastrous start that saw them at 2 wickets for 7 runs and losing wickets at regular intervals, they posted a strong 220 against Zimbabwe. This was thanks to a resolute half century by captain Kaylum Boshier 66(113) and a stunning knock by Todd Watson who scored 53 runs from 32 balls including four 6’s. The knock was made all the more incredible considering Watson bats at No. 9, showing the depth of the Kiwi batting.
Despite their brilliance with the bat, neither player was done performing as Watson removed Zimbabwean opener Gregory Dollar while Boshier was the pick of the Kiwi bowlers for taking 3 wickets for only 17 runs in his 4 overs.
The Hebou PNG Under 19 Garamuts will take confidence from the showing of certain players against West Indies. Igo Mahuru stood tall against the champions, as he played more than 10 overs all by himself in his knock of 22 from 64 balls. Ovia Sam also played a solid knock of 21 before Eisa Eka and James Tau, who are tail enders, endured a barrage of pace with some decent shot selection. James Tau got a wicket in his first over itself and will take heart in his team’s performance.
The Under 19 Cricket World Cup is a breeding ground for future stars of the game as Papua New Guinean, Mahuru Dai shared earlier. New Zealand too have produced a lot of players that have starred at the tournament, including Kane Williamson who was earmarked for success as captain of New Zealand in the 2008 edition, where New Zealand made the semifinals.
“It is a great stepping stone,” Williamson tells ICC. “Playing international cricket within your age group allows players to see slightly higher standards, the best of the best from the under 19 perspective, so a great tournament to be involved in.
Inspirational words for the Garamuts who are surely going to come away from New Zealand with great experiences under their belt.