13th January, 1998. A nation that has defied odds to make it to the Under 19 Cricket World Cup for the first time ever. And this was the day they were to play their first ever World Cup match. The country in question is Papua New Guinea.
To understand how big an achievement this was, the Hebou PNG U19 Garamuts lost their match in the qualifiers held in 1997. They then HAD TO win the rest of their matches to have a chance to qualify for the World Cup and their final match was against Bangladesh. Bangladesh won the Plate Competition at that World Cup in ’98, which is held for the teams that don’t make it to the Super League stages of an U19 Cricket World Cup World Cup. Bangladesh defeated cricket power house West Indies – who had Chris Gayle in their team – along the way in the final to lift The Plate. And Papua New Guinea had defeated this team in a do or die match to make it to the big stage.
Their debut at the World Cup was against Zimbabwe. History awaited the players that would take the field for the Garamuts, irrespective of the result against a team that was expected to advance to the Super League despite having Australia and West Indies in the same group.
Zimbabwe won the match by 147 runs and for the Garamuts, the tournament showed the gap that needed to be bridged by the Papua New Guinea cricket team that came back home with immense experience and pride, if not the results.
10 years later, Papua New Guinea had finished 12th at the World Cup while Zimbabwe finished 14th. In 2010, PNG finished above Zimbabwe again.
The stage was set in 2012 for another big match. The first group stage match the Garamuts would play in Australia was against Zimbabwe and it ended in a disappointing loss. It felt like two steps back after all the hard work of many years. But there would be a chance at redemption in the Plate Championship. Zimbabwe v Papua New Guinea for the 13th place play off semi final. Papua New Guinea were bowled out for 235 and it seemed like history might repeat itself. But it didn’t. History was made as Papua New Guinea restricted the African nation to 223 runs and won the match to finish higher than Zimbabwe again at the tournament.
The two teams haven’t met since and both tasted defeats in their warm up matches, where Papua New Guinea faced champions West Indies and Zimbabwe faced hosts New Zealand.
Needless to say, both teams will be up for the contest in Christchurch. The Hebou PNG U19 Garamuts will have to watch out for all rounder Milton Shumba who scored 45(72) and took 3 wickets in his 10 overs against New Zealand in their warm up match. Another strong performer is captain and another All-Rounder Liam Roche, while Kieran Robinson’s pace will have to be negotiated in the opening overs.
Zimbabwe will want the prized wickets of Igo Mahuru and Ovia Sam themselves while being watchful of the pace of James Tau and the turn of Boge Arua.
Follow all the action on the Cricket PNG Facebook page as the Under 19 Cricket World Cup finally kicks off tomorrow, in New Zealand.