Congratulations to Papua New Guinea, who today have become the 23rd country to play ODI cricket. They are taking on Hong Kong in a two match series in Townsville as we speak. This article is an excellent overview of where cricket stands in PNG at the moment and how they got to this point.
As a Kent supporter (Kentish man not Man of Kent) I take special interest in this fixture as it features our old wicketkeeper Geraint Jones, who was born in Papua New Guinea and left at the age of six. I remember watching Geraint make his debut for Kent many years ago in an ODI and was impressed then by his busyness at the crease and his general exuberance. And it’s not been a bad career since, going on to play Test cricket for England and being part of the famous 2005 Ashes winning side. I wouldn’t mind betting that after playing 49 ODIs for England he never thought that his 50th would come playing for the country of his birth. I like that symmetry and I’m very pleased for him.
Although this is only a 2 ODI series the two teams are due to play a 3 day game following the ODIs. Some of the PNG players will have never taken part in matches longer than a day so it will be a great test for them. Exactly what is needed to improve their skills.
It is a shame really that Australia and/or New Zealand couldn’t have sent a team to make it a triangular tournament which would add extra context. The Aussies are currently playing a meaningless T20 series against South Africa with most of their main players absent because they have only just returned from the Test series in the UAE. So playing second string sides in a series that no-one will be telling their grandkids about seems more than a bit pointless. Having a team playing against PNG and Hong Kong would be much more interesting and at least go some way towards helping develop the standard in these countries and spreading the word on this great game of ours. It is a global sport after all!