Book Your Tickets PNG, You're Off to the World Cup!
Papua New Guinea has won its way into next year's Under 19 Cricket World Cup by beating Vanuatu in an enthralling final of the East Asia - Pacific qualifying tournament in Port Vila yesterday.
Around 400 people lined the boundary at Kazaa Field, hoping to cheer on the home-town heroes to victory.
Unfortunately the PNG boys proved too strong, showing perhaps a little more maturity and experience, to claim the decisive win.
Batting first, PNG began at a blistering pace and looked to be cruising at two for 130, with Tony Ura 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 on the local lads 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.
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, despite the skipper's best efforts, Mansale eventually falling for 42, trying to lift his side's 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.
The win cements PNG's positions as the current kings of cricket in the East Asia - Pacific region.
It also confirms that Vanuatu has one of the most effective junior development programs in the region, given the small population exposed to the game, and the fact Vanuatu have finished runner up at this event and the past two under 15 regional tournaments, losing to PNG in the final of each event.
Vanuatu's future in this tournament looks positive: two thirds of this year's squad will be eligible for the next Under 19 World Cup Qualifying Tournament in two years.
Remarkably the down pour the night before didn't hold up the day's games too much, with play getting underway just after nine at Club Hippique and a little before 10am at Kazaa Field, with full matches scheduled for both venues.
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.
Fijian quick Tukana Tavo and leg spinner Viliame Yubaki each took four wickets, as the Japanese folded to be all out for 35.
Again Fiji captain Joe Rika took a shining to the Japanese bowlers, smashing 28 from 10 balls, to close the match in just three overs.
While in the bigger matches the Fijians appeared to fall a little short of the mark, they have proven at different stages of this tournament they are very capable of producing good results when they apply themselves.
The Japanese have shown a great commitment to improving their skills and learning the intricacies of the game over the past week.
Their obvious passion for the game makes the Japanese valuable members of the East Asia - Pacific cricket family.
PNG 10/207 defeated Vanuatu 10/103.
Fiji 0/41 defeated Japan 10/35.
Last Modified on 22/07/2007 16:00