Fairfax NZ News
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ
Batting first after losing the toss, Kenya posted what seemed a competitive 249-9 in their 50 overs, with Collins Obuya top-scoring a well-hit 106, his third first class century.
Papua New Guinea started their run chase poorly with opener Tony Ura out off the third ball of the innings without scoring to bring Assad Vala to the crease with just one run on the board.
Lady luck stepped in, however, and as Kenya put down two good catches off Legga Siaka with one a skied ball that met a half-hearted effort and was dropped and the other a gift though slips.
Siaka, batting aggressively but sensibly, made Kenya pay, riding his luck and going on to score 106 off 83 balls before falling.
He combined with Vala, hitting straight and hard, in a 1530-run partnership for the second wicket.
Vala glued the innings together along with his new batting partner, captain Chris Amini, and the pair never looked in any trouble as they took every opportunity to pepper the boundary.
At the same time Kenya looked mournful and disinterested at times in the field as if they were resigned to losing. Even a 25-minute break caused by a rogue shower sweeping across the ground - the second stoppage in the match - failed to lift their spirits.
When play resumed after the break for rain, Papua New Guinea need just 33 runs to win and they quickly knocked them off without losing another wicket.
The shorter-than-normal park boundaries, because of the boundary rope being three metres in all round the ground to fit in the electronic scoreboard, was reached or crossed seemingly at will with a total of 14 sixes and 44 fours scored in the game.
Papua New Guinea coach Peter Anderson was pleased with the way his team had started the qualifying tournament.
"We haven't had a lot of 50 overs cricket yet and the guys responded really well today," he said. "It was a really good batting display after a rocky couple of warm-up games."
Anderson was confident going into bat knowing their target was 250. "I really thought it was a 280-290 ground," he said. "It's a beautiful ground and if you hit square you get good value. But we still intended to hit straight as you get into trouble hitting across the line too much."
Papua New Guinea will play another two matches on Pukekura Park this week, facing Uganda on Thursday and the Netherlands on Sunday.
"It's really our home ground so we'll use that to our advantage," Anderson said.
Anderson singled out Vala for special praise. "I was really proud of Assad. He had a pretty tough last three or four months after a wonderful last year when he turned a lot of ears.
"That was a wonderful innings by him today. He's up and coming and we've changed the order around to see if we can mix it up a bit and it's worked well."
The 10-team tournament runs until February 1, with the two finalists nabbing the last two spots for next year's 14-team World Cup, which will be hosted by New Zealand and Australia.
There are two pools of five in this qualifying event, with the top three advancing to the Super Six, before the semifinals.
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