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Fiji missed a priceless opportunity to beat their main opposition for the East Asia-Pacific (EAP) Trophy, losing to Papua New Guinea (PNG) by 37 runs in the opening game of the 50-over section in Apia, Samoa.
PNG were wallowing at 45 for 6 before a timely rain delay provided a chance to regroup. On their return, wicketkeeper Arua Dikana and Loa Noa put on a valuable 40-run partnership to give the tournament favourites a total of 117, one its bowlers could defend.
Earlier, PNG had started positively, but the tournament favourites came unstuck due to some tight bowling and keen fielding from Fiji. Three wickets, including two run-outs, and then a brace of wickets to left-armer Sakaraia Lomani had PNG struggling, before rain held up play. Lomani finished with 3 for 31 from eight overs as Fiji were left chasing a reduced total of 108 from 43 overs.
The Barramundi pace attack of Willie Gavera, Loa Nou and debutante Pipi Raho shook the Fijian top order. When two quick wickets fell after the lunch break, Fiji were 27 for 6 and a PNG win was inevitable. Raho bowled well to make early breakthroughs to finish with 5 for 18 from five overs.
The other World Cricket League team, Japan got a bye.
In the tournament to decide who gets the WCL Division 8 spot, Samoa beat Tonga by 47 runs. After opting to bat, Samoan captain Geoff Clarke began in emphatic style with a beautiful boundary through cover, off the first ball of the match. Ably supported by opening partner Uala Kaisala, the pair compiled 30 in quick time before Kaisala holed out to deep long on.
Ron Turner joined Clarke to add 35 before a middle-order collapse saw Samoa struggle to 102 for 5. As the wickets continued to fall, Samoa were eventually dismissed for 128, and Tonga were right in the game.
Tongan openers Sione Holi and Filimone Moala began confidently, smashing their way to 22 without loss before a combination of some poor shot selection and accurate bowling exposed the middle order. The Tongans were eventually dismissed for 81, with Mulivai, Fuimoana and Seuoti grabbed three wickets apiece.
In other matches, the Cook Islands produced an outstanding display against Indonesia on the back of a fine all-round performance from Tino Etita, while PNG were in serious early trouble before overcoming a gallant Fiji on Oval #1.
Etita bowled superbly to take 4 for 20 from seven tight overs, and was ably supported by Davis Teinaki who grabbed 3 for 6 from five accurate overs. Indonesian opener Thenuara held the innings together with a fine 67, but had little support as they were bowled out for 122 in the 35th over.
The total was never going to be enough against a strong Cook Islands line-up, with Etita shining again with an aggressive 42, including three sixes. Captain Chris Brown steered his team home with a patient innings as the Cook Islands coasted to a seven-wicket victory.
Tomorrow being a rest-day, the WCL countries' tournament will resume on Monday with Fiji playing Japan, and PNG getting the bye. In the tournament to decide who plays in WCL Division 8, Vanuatu will meet Indonesia, Samoa take on Cook Islands and Tonga have the bye.
Papua New Guinea 117 (Dikana 38, Arua 19, Lomani 4-32) beat Fiji 80 (Sorovakatini 47, Bulabalavu 13, Raho 5-18, Nou 4-13) by 37 runs
Samoa 128 (Turner 27, Clarke 20, Latu 3-22, S Holi 2-22, Langi 2-30) beat Tonga 81 (Holi 18; Fuimoana 3-25, Mulivai 3-43) by 47 runs
Cook Islands 129 for 3 (Etita 42, Brown 22*, Ataera 20, Arsa 2-27) beat Indonesia 122 (Thenuara 67, Etita 4-20, Teinaki 3-6) by seven wickets
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.