Fiji has started strongly with a comfortable eight wicket victory against Japan in the opening match of the 2006 EAP Cricket Trophy played today at the Peter Burge Oval at Redlands CC in Brisbane, Australia.
After a week of inclement weather, the sun came out on cue for Match 1 with Japan winning the toss and electing to bat. At 1/128 after 33 overs their decision was fully vindicated and they were primed to set the Islanders a big target.
The introduction of spinner Joeli Mateyawa in the 33rd over swung the game however and the Fijian skipper's accuracy and change of pace caused the downfall of Gavin Beath (49) and then Munir Ahmad (53). With Tetsuo Fuji (2) coming and going cheaply the runs dried up and after 40 overs Japan were 5/145 and needing a late innings rally.
Masoami Kobayashi (34no) provided the runs from one end but he lacked support from his team mates and the final Japan total of 7/188 was probably 20 or so runs shy of what should have been. Mateyawa (3/25 off 10 overs) was the pick of the Fijian bowlers in an honest defensive performance.
Japan started well with the ball snaring the early wicket of Colin Rika for 2. Tiko Kida and 19 year old Joesfa Rika steadily built and then challenged the Japanese attack with a second wicket partnership of 110 runs in 28 overs. Aided by a succession of dropped catches, Rika and Kida batted intelligently and confidently before a mid pitch mix up resulted in Kida being run out for a mature 53.
At 2/116 Fiji were in control of the match and with the experienced Neil Maxwell striding to the crease, the game was well set. Maxwell survived a very confident caught behind appeal second ball before settling his nerves to find some form. Once settled, Maxwell showed his class to take the game away from the Japanese lofting the ball confidently to the outfield and scoring at almost run a ball pace for his 59 not out. Rika provided the foil to Maxwell's aggression in their unconquered 73 run stand and his patient 50 not out in 42 overs piloted the victory. Opener Naoki Miyaji was the only Japanese bowler to taste success and finished with a respectable 1/36 off 9 overs.
The Cook Islands make their debut in Round 2 tomorrow and will clash with Fiji at Peter Burge Oval commencing at 9am.