PNG and Fiji going for gold
Fiji and PNG have each booked a place in Friday's gold medal match after wins over Vanuatu and New Caledonia respectively at the Pacific Games Cricket Competition in Noumea.
In the match of the tournament so far, Fiji fought back from the jaws of defeat to snatch a four-run victory over Vanuatu. Set the modest total of 114 to win, Vanuatu were in control for the majority of the run chase before terrific bowling spells from both Viliame Yabaki and Jikoi Kida caused a late innings collapse to hand Fiji the victory.
"It's an awesome feeling to win and I haven't had that feeling for a long time," said Fiji captain Jo Rika. "Yesterday we spoke about playing to our strengths and improving our fielding and bowling and taking nothing away from our great batting performance, but we really improved in the field today."
Sakaraia Lomani was again the stand out with the bat for Fiji smashing another 44 not out and was well supported by his captain Rika who was in fine touch for his 36. In reply Vanuatu were well in control early thanks to a terrific 44 from Lenica Natapei and 27 from Andrew Mansale. However, once Mansale departed and Natapei followed soon after the young Vanuatu side struggled to deal with the spin of Yabaki who took two wickets in three balls to set up the win. Yabaki ended with figures of 4 for 21 and Kida also got well among the wickets taking 3 for 21.
In the afternoon PNG dealt the hosts New Caledonia a significant blow, defeating them by 150 runs and setting up a showdown with Fiji. New Caledonia put up a spirited fight in the field restricting PNG to 197 for 6 off their 20 overs, which considering their performance yesterday against Fiji was a great improvement from the inexperienced side.
"It is a huge pleasure to play against a side like PNG and to keep them to under 200 which was less than Fiji scored against us yesterday and was one of our targets so we are pretty happy," said Noel Sinyeue who top scored and also took two wickets. "To take six wickets against a team like PNG is a real achievement."
For PNG Kapena Arua top scored with 62 and Tony Ura once again performed brilliantly with 57. Sinyeue was the only multiple wicket-taker for New Caledonia ending with figures of 2 for 28.
After a solid performance in the field, sadly it all went downhill with the bat for New Caledonia bowled out for just 47 thanks mainly to an awesome display of bowling from Inoa Baeau who ended with the incredible figures of 5 for 3 from four overs.
Wednesday will see PNG v Fiji and Vanuatu v New Caledonia in two matches that will not influence who will play-off in the medal matches. These fixtures will be repeated again on Friday when PNG and Fiji play off for gold and Vanuatu and New Caledonia for bronze.
PNG's Arua says however they will hold nothing back against Fiji in what is effectively a dead rubber. "We always do the normal routine, we are a good side and always want to maintain our standard," he said. "We have many strengths and tomorrow we will make sure we use them."
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa