Asad Vala blitz the highlight on day two of EAP T20 qualifying
Every so often in associate and affiliate cricket, something happens that those of us who are involved in it - be they players, administrators or in my case writers - wish could have been seen by the wider audience it deserved.
Earlier today, whilst much of the sporting world had their eyes on the SuperBowl in New Orleans, Asad Vala, playing his 55th match for Papua New Guinea since making his debut during the 2005 ICC Trophy, gave us one of those moments. Had it been under the bright lights of the Indian Premier League or World Twenty20, would probably be being hailed right now as one of the most amazing innings of all time.
Whilst such superlatives are usually so way over the top as to be essentially meaningless, the innings certainly was amazing.
Playing against Indonesia on the second day of the East Asia-Pacific regional qualifier for the World Twenty20 Qualifier, Papua New Guinea sent Vala out to open with Tony Ura. Vala then went on an amazing rampage.
Carrying his bat to the end of the innings he smashed 157 from just 64 balls, an innings that featured 15 fours and 10 sixes. One hapless Indonesian bowler - Ikadek Gamantika had 60 runs taken off the 3 overs he bowled.
Vala's superb display of power hitting helped take Papua New Guinea to a total of 267-2 from their 20 overs. A total that would have been decent in a fifty over match, but sensational in a Twenty20 contest.
Both the total and Vala's score are higher than the record in full Twenty20 Internationals - 260-6 by Sri Lanka against Kenya and 123 by Brendon McCullum against Bangladesh respectively. I can find no higher team total in matches between non-test sides, and Vala's total is higher than the 145 Namibia's Louis van der Westhuizen scored against Kenya, which is the highest individual score between two non-test sides that I could find before this. Please get in touch if anyone knows of any higher!
It will come as no surprise that Indonesia failed to match that score, and they were bowled out for 70 to lose by 197 runs, with Jason Kila taking three wickets for just 7 runs. The winning margin may well also be a record!
Asad Vala continued his fine form into PNG's afternoon match against Vanuatu, though he didn't quite score as much! This time he scored 71 from 40 balls to help PNG score 199-7 from their 20 overs, which on any other day would probably have been a high score.
Vanuatu got within 30 runs of the PNG total, but only two of their batsmen were really able to get a start, with Trevor Langa scoring 43 and Nalin Nipiko scoring 57. Willie Gavera took 5-23 from his four overs.
Vanuatu almost made a meal of what should have been a simple chase against Samoa in their morning match. Initially struggling on 36-6, Samoa recovered to post 111-7 from their 20 overs thanks to an unbeaten 50 from Daniel Burgess.
Initially cruising on 71-2 with Trevor Langa on 46, Vanuatu conspired to collapse to 107-7. Then, with just two runs needed, they lost two further wickets before Joel John ran three from the last ball (though technically the innings should have ended when the second run was completed) to secure the one wicket win.
Fiji, who bowled out Indonesia for 46 on the opening day, bowled Japan out for even less on day two, dismissing them for just 38. Tukana Tavo took three wickets for just six runs, bowling two maidens in the process. Fiji chased down their target in just 8.3 overs to win by 9 wickets.
The Fijians continued their winning ways in the afternoon, scoring 178-6 against the Cook Islands, Sekove Ravoka top scoring with 59. The Cook Islands were then bowled out for 100 to lose by 78 runs.
Japan managed to record their first tournament win in the afternoon, bowling Indonesia out for 93. They then chased down their required runs in 16.1 overs, Alex Patmore leading the way with an unbeaten 54.
Going into Tuesday's rest day, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Vanuatu lead the table with three wins each, and look set to be the teams competing for the two places in the global qualifier in the UAE later this year.