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Papua New Guinea maintained their unbeaten run in the East Asia-Pacific Region Division One Twenty20, beating Vanuatu by a comfortable margin of 58 runs in the final in Port Moresby. The victory books PNG's spot in the Global Division One Twenty20 play-off in the UAE early next year which will determine the two Associate or Affiliates to play in the 12-team World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.
PNG elected to bat and got off to a streaky start when in-form opener Asad Vala was dropped by opposing captain Andrew Mansale early on. Vala, who had 344 runs in the tournament leading up to the final, and partner Tony Ura took advantage of Vanuatu's slip-up, adding 56 off 5.2 overs before Jelany Chilia got Vala to edge to the keeper. Ura stood firm though, putting on 47 runs with Chris Amini , before falling for 48. By then the platform was laid for PNG - with the scoreboard reading 103 for 2 in the 11th over - to push on to a big total. Mahuru Dai and Jason Kila provided the final surge, striking four sixes to carry PNG to 195 for 5 in their 20 overs.
The Vanuatu openers got the chase off to a steady start, but two wickets in the fifth and sixth overs put PNG in front. From there on PNG picked up wickets at regular intervals and kept the batsmen in check. Only Patrick Matautaava was able to inject some much-needed momentum into the Vanuatu innings, striking two fours and three sixes in his 36 off 18 balls. But when he holed out off medium-pacer Joel Tom - who was the pick of the bowlers for PNG, claiming 3 for 31 - in the 19th over, the victory was already beyond Vanuatu.
PNG captain, Rarva Dikana said the win at home, especially in front of the sizeable crowd, was fitting. "It is a huge achievement for the country, especially considering all of the development work going on," he said. "I'm glad we could do this for everyone involved in cricket in PNG." Ura, who was the second highest-scorer in the tournament behind opening partner Vala, was named Man of the Match. Tom and Matautaava, along with Fiji's Iniasi Cakacaka, were the tournament's top wicket-takers with nine wickets.
In the third-place playoff game, an all-round performance from Samoa earned them a 30-run victory over Fiji. Samoa were sent into bat and though they lost opener Sean Cotter early, a steady 48 from Geoff Clarke, followed by whirlwind knocks from Faasao Mulivai (67) and Pritchard Pritchard (28*), carried them to a competitive 172 for 3 in their 20 overs.
Fiji's chase started poorly when they lost opener Sekove Ravoka in the first over. A 58-run second wicket partnership between Joji Bulabalavu and Iniasi Cakacaka steadied the innings but a flurry of quick wickets after that derailed their chase. They slumped for 58 for 1 to 68 for 5 and couldn't get going after that, getting bowled out for 142. Samoa's bowlers were steady with Cotter the most successful with 3 for 9 in three overs.
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Assistant editor (Audio) Having a father who played in the Ranji Trophy against the likes of the legendary Pankaj Roy, cricket was in Akhila's blood. When a bachelor's degree in Literature was augmented by a master's in Mass Communication, she should have known that a career in journalism beckoned. But it took a joyless stint in public relations to push her to ESPN Star Sports, where she worked with the Sportscenter team and covered countless preparatory camps at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. As a happy coincidence this ran concurrently with a hobby stint as a radio jockey for a station playing old Hindi film music. She then joined ESPNcricinfo's audio team, where she has worked since October 2006.