MELBOURNE (Reuters) – 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.
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,” he added.
PNG’s automatic qualification came at the expense of the Netherlands, who defeated Scotland but will have to take the playoffs route to reach Australia.
Cricket was introduced into PNG in the early 1900s by British missionaries but the national teams have struggled to make an impression on the world stage until recently.
The men’s “Barramundis” team were awarded One Day International Status by the ICC in 2014 and they have benefited from development grants from neighbouring cricket power Australia.
“The fact that Papua New Guinea have qualified for their first Men’s T20 World Cup in 2020 is one of modern cricket’s amazing feel good stories,” commentator and former West Indies fast bowler Ian Bishop tweeted.
India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin also hailed PNG’s entry to one of cricket’s biggest global stages.
“So PNG qualifies for the T20 World Cup!! It’s amazing to see the game expanding globally and will surely bring more young ones to play the great game,” he tweeted.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Christopher Cushing)