All-round PNG begin with two wins
An all-round performance from Papua New Guinea carried them to a comfortable 38-run win over Vanuatu in the opening game of the ICC WCL East Asia-Pacific Region Division One Twenty20 tournament in Port Moresby.
PNG captain Rarva Dikana chose to bat and his decision was justified with the openers Asad Vala and Tony Ura putting on 82 runs in the first nine overs before Vala was dismissed. Ura though, stayed firm, making 73 off 55 balls with nine fours and one six to keep his team on track for a competitive score. Medium-pacer Patrick Matautaava picked up three wickets in the final over but PNG managed to reach 150 for 6 courtesy their strong opening stand and Ura's half-century.
"I am really happy with how I batted today," Ura said after the day's play. "Although it was disappointing to get out before the innings ended."
That total proved to be more than a handful for Vanuatu who lost two wickets within the first three overs. They never recovered from their poor start with only three batsmen managing to reach double figures. Joel Tom and Dikana picked up two wickets apiece as Vanuatu were restricted to 112 for 8, handing PNG an easy victory.
Samoa stole a thrilling three-wicket win over Fiji with one ball to spare in the second match of the day. Put in to bat first, Fiji lost their openers cheaply before the captain Josefa Rika steadied the innings with 33, but Fiji kept losing wickets at the other end. The final score of 125 was aided by some waywardy bowling from Samoa, who conceded 12 wides in all.
With a modest total to chase, Samoa lost their opener Sean Cotter early, before Geoff Clarke and Benjamin Mailata put on 79 runs for the second wicket. The match seemed headed to a predictable finish when the middle order collapsed dramatically, with the next five wickets falling for the addition of only seven runs, and it was left up to Uala Kaisara and Winston Mariner - the pick of the bowlers earlier on in the day - to steer Samoa home with an unbeaten 20-run stand.
Mailata was relieved with the result, given that his side nearly made a hash of the chase. "It's always good to get a win to start a tournament," he said. "We certainly did it the hard way but it was still a great result."
Papua New Guinea followed up their earlier win in the day with another convincing victory, crushing Samoa by 77 runs. Winning the toss for the second time in the day, PNG chose to bat, and their opening pair bettering their previous effort with a 112-run stand. The momentum they created was enough to carry PNG to 182 in their 20 overs. Faasao Mulivai, who picked up two wickets, was the only Samoan bowler with an economy under six, a statistic that reflected the kind of day their attack endured.
In reply, Samoa lost their top three batsmen with just 17 runs on the board, and never recovered. Only two of their batsmen reached double figures, and Uala Kaisara stayed unbeaten on 29, as Samoa finished with 105 for 9.
PNG's Mahuru Dai had words of encouragement for his opponents despite his side's easy wins. "Last time I saw Samoa and Vanuatu play they weren't too strong," Dai said. "But now that they are here in PNG after seeing them again I have noticed great improvement in both of them."
Fiji trounced Japan by 74 runs in the final match of the day, moving to the second place on the points table, with a net run-rate superior to Samoa's. Batting first, Fiji finished with 160 for the loss of only two wickets, with Kitiano Tavo top-scoring with an unbeaten 45.
In reply, Japan's top-order collapsed, and they never gained the momentum required to chase down a challenging total. Iniasi Cakacaka, who had contributed 33 with the bat, picked up two wickets in his four overs.