Fiji opener Josefa Rika played what must rank as one of the most breathtaking knocks in the history of age-group cricket to inspire his side to a 387-run victory over Japan in the ICC East Asia-Pacific (EAP) Under-19 Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Port Vila, Vanuatu on Friday.
Rika hit an electrifying 257 off just 145 balls to help Fiji post 440-8 from 50 overs after they won the toss and elected to bat first. Sekope Biauniceva then showed his ability with the new ball by capturing 6-13 from 10 overs as Japan was all out for 53 in 19.3 overs.
However, Rika's whirlwind knock overshadowed everything else - and rightly so. The Fiji captain, in a scintillating display of batsmanship, clobbered 37 fours and six sixes before he was the eighth and last batsman out at the score of 423.
The frustration for Fiji will be that this performance will not be enough to take it to the final after defeat in its previous matches against hosts Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea (PNG). Fiji and Japan will meet again in the third and fourth place play-off match on the final day of the tournament on Sunday.
Elsewhere, Papua New Guinea earned a psychological advantage over Vanuatu for their all-important final clash, also on Sunday, when it won a low scoring match by eight wickets. Pace bowler Willie Gavera was again the hero for them as he took three wickets and conceded a miserly seven runs from nine overs as the home team was restricted to 115. Papua New Guinea achieved the victory target in just 14 overs with Tony Ura hitting a 38-ball unbeaten 67 that included 11 fours and two sixes.
The winner of Sunday's final will join the four other regional tournament winners, 10 Full Members and hosts Malaysia for the ICC U/19 Cricket World Cup to be played from 17 February to 2 March, 2008 in Kuala Lumpur.
Sami-ul-Hasan is ICC Communications Officer