Papua New Guinea 124 for 8 (Vala 32, Vanua 28*, Kane 3-19) beat Ireland 123 for 9 (Porterfield 57*, Gavera 3-17) by two wickets
A suffocating fielding performance by Papua New Guinea set the stage for Ireland's first loss at the World T20 Qualifier since the opening match of 2012 against Namibia, ending a streak of 21 straight wins in the tournament. Chasing 124, Norman Vanua struck three sixes in the 19th over to give PNG a dramatic two-wicket win in Belfast.
PNG looked to have given away the match after Kevin O'Brien's middle-over spell of 2 for 11 kept the visitors in check chasing Ireland's 123 for 9. O'Brien dislodged the set pair of Assad Vala and Kila Pala, and PNG's hopes dipped further when captain Jack Vare and John Reva were caught at deep midwicket and long on respectively in the space of three balls, off Tyrone Kane.
However, Vanua salvaged the match for PNG with an extraordinary rescue mission. With 27 needed off 14 balls, he slammed Alex Cusack for a huge six over midwicket, then took a single off the final ball of the 18th to keep strike against John Mooney, so far the leading wicket-taker of the tournament. Vanua hit a full toss over fine leg for six on the first ball of the over and after a pair of singles, got back on strike for the fourth ball.
Vanua proceeded to charge Mooney and hit a full delivery off his legs for six over midwicket and finished the match one ball later, sending another maximum careening into the trees protecting the driving cars along Upper Newtownards Road. He finished unbeaten on 28 off just 10 balls, and after his spell of 1 for 22 in the field, was an easy choice for Man of the Match.
PNG started the chase with 13 off the first over, including a towering six by Lega Siaka off Kane, but Ireland's tight bowling from then on brought out PNG's nerves that were only eased at the end by Vanua. Tony Ura was pinned on the crease by Cusack's first ball to start the second before Siaka fell in the third to a superb running catch along the deep midwicket rope by Dockrell, off Mooney. O'Brien's tidy four overs brought Ireland back into the match and set the stage for the furious finish.
Ireland had earlier won the toss, one of the few things that went right for them in the first innings, and batted first under bright sunshine. PNG exerted relentless pressure early and rarely eased up, but a crucial final over in which last man Alex Cusack hit a four through fine leg and a full toss for six over midwicket gave Ireland a late boost to 123 for 9.
Vanua made the first breakthrough, bowling Paul Stirling off an inside edge for 1 in the second over, before Willie Gavera struck twice in three balls in the fifth to reduce Ireland to 24 for 3. Gavera's first wicket was that of Niall O'Brien, bowled with an inswinger that took the top of middle and leg. Kevin O'Brien was then beaten for pace attempting to pull and the ball floated gently to Mahuru Dai in the circle at midwicket for an easy catch as Gavera sprinted around the infield.
John Reva kept up the momentum by beating Andy Balbirnie's forward prod for 6. Ireland's biggest partnership of the day came courtesy of captain William Porterfield and Gary Wilson, a 37-run stand for the fifth wicket across six overs. Wilson was the only other top six batsman besides Porterfield to reach double-figures with 10, but he perished trying to up the scoring rate, beaten in flight by Assad Vala's offspin and stumped by Vare to make it 70 for 5 in the 14th.
Porterfield was nearly run out for 39 in the following over as Vare raced out from behind the stumps to prevent a single at square leg but his throw bounced over the stumps with Porterfield four yards short. Porterfield smacked the next ball for six over midwicket and brought up his half-century off 52 balls.
PNG's speed to the ball accounted for Stuart Thompson, run-out trying to set off for a single behind point from the non-striker's end. John Mooney cut his second ball off Loa Nou past point for a boundary in the 17th but one ball later his attempted scoop failed to clear Vanua at fine leg, exposing Ireland's tail for the first time in the tournament.
George Dockrell ran himself out sitting off for a single after hitting Vanua straight to Tony Ura at cover for the eighth wicket while Gavera bounced Tyrone Kane out in the 19th. Cusack managed a four and a six off the final over to push the score above 120, but it would prove not to be enough for the hosts.