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July 22, 2007
Papua New Guinea have won their way into next year's Under-19 World Cup after beating Vanuatu by 104 runs in an enthralling final at the East Asia-Pacific qualifying tournament in Port Vila yesterday.
Batting first, PNG began at a blistering pace and looked to be cruising at 130 for 2, with Tony Ura, who scored 74, and Arua Dikana teaming up for a 112-run stand for the third wicket. But Vanuatu remained patient, and were able to peg PNG back through some accurate spin bowling, and four crucial wickets to paceman Jono Dunn.
A lower order collapse saw PNG fall to be all out for 207, giving Vanuatu some welcome momentum going into the lunch break.
But in reply, Vanuatu lost wickets at regular intervals, as the experienced PNG bowling attack mounted pressure through a water-tight line and length. Literally every run brought a chorus of cheers and car horns from the enthusiastic local crowd.
That so many people came to support the young local side shows how much the game has grown in popularity in recent years in Vanuatu.
Again it was left to Captain Andrew Mansale to pull his side out of a giant hole, as no other Vanuatu batsman made a significant contribution.But the burden proved too great and Mansale eventually fell for 42, trying to lift the scoring rate.
The depth of PNG's bowling attack was the key to their success in this tournament, and it appears likely they will form a highly competitive outfit at next year's big event.
Throughout this tournament, PNG showed it was capable of applying serious pressure to their opposition at crucial stages of matches, and the final proved to be not different as Vanuatu succumbed to be all out for 103.
The 104-run win means PNG will travel to Malaysia in February to compete against 15 other nations in the most significant junior cricket competition in the world: the 2008 Under-19 World Cup.
Elsewhere at Club Hippique, Fiji managed to claim third spot with another comprehensive win against Japan.
Keen to wrap up proceedings quickly, Fiji sent Japan in, and the match followed a somewhat predictable script from that point onwards. Japan folded up for 35 as Fijian seamer Tukana Tavo and legspinner Viliame Yabaki each took four wickets.
Joe Rika, Fiji captain, took a liking to the Japanese bowlers, smashing 28 from 10 balls, to close the match in just three overs.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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