Match One: NSW too strong for EAP

The East Asia - Pacific (EAP) team were comprehensively defeated by New South Wales (NSW) in the opening round of the Australian Country Cricket Championships (ACCC) being contested in Mildura, Victoria played on Tuesday (2nd Jan) / Wednesday (3rd Jan).

After winning the toss at the picturesque Aerodome Sports Complex, EAP bowlers Kitione Tavo (3 for 55) and Inoa Baeau (1 for 53) began proceedings with a probing opening spell. Both bowlers looked dangerous with the new ball and Tavo capitalised in the 12th over via an outside edge that was neatly claimed by Arua Uda at 2nd slip.

Hitolo Areni (2 for 52) and Captain Rarua Dikana (1 for 41) continued the positive start with Areni making the second breakthrough in the 23rd over and NSW went to lunch at 2 for 87 with the game evenly poised.

Some aggressive batting followed the break and Dikana responded with the introduction of off-spinner Jamie Brazier (3 for 30). Combining with the pace bowlers, Brazier slowed the scoring and EAP wrestled back the momentum with 4 for 31 in the space of 15 overs. At Tea, NSW had posted 7 for 208 as both teams looked to gain the ascendency in the crucial final session.

With the tail wagging NSW scrambled to 253 before being dismissed in the 88th over. Brazier was the pick of the bowlers while Tavo also impressed with a sustained display of quality pace bowling.

Wicket-keeper Ipi Morea was outstanding behind the stumps while Andrew Mansale created several run out chances as he prowled the cover/point region. Uda also made an early claim for catch of the Championships with a sharp, one-handed catch at 1st slip off Brazier.

EAP opening batsmen Uda and Tikovanualevu Kida were set a tricky 12 overs before the end of Day 1. This period was pivotal as NSW gained the upper hand snapping up both openers and the usually reliable John Ovia. EAP finished the day at 3 for 28 with Mansale and Mahuru Dai the not out batsman.

Conditions on the Day 2 were ideal for batting however NSW had the momentum and came out firing. Pace bowler Adrian Ezquerro claimed the first 5 wicket haul of the Championships as the NSW attack tore through the EAP middle order.

Brazier provide some resistance however his fighting 43 wasn't enough to get EAP past the follow-on target as the last wicket fell for a disappointing 102. Quality bowling from NSW and some poor shot selection from the EAP top order found the latter in the precarious position of being asked to bat again as NSW seized the opportunity to gain maximum outright points.

The EAP 2nd Innings started as the 1st left off with Uda falling to an ambitious hook shot in the first over. The baptism of fire continued for the EAP batsman with regular wickets falling throughout the afternoon. At Tea, EAP sat at 7 for 100 with hopes resting on Dikana and Mansale who had fought their way through 30 minutes leading into the break.

When Dikana fell to a rising delivery that ballooned off the handle of his bat, NSW had victory in their sights and claimed the final 2 wickets in quick time to dismiss EAP for 106 and secure outright points.

EAP Captain Rarua Dikana commented after the game: 'This is a very disappointing result for us. We have worked hard preparing for the ACCC however NSW were too strong today. We must now re-group and tomorrow's game against Western Australia will be a good opportunity to bounce back. We are looking forward to the challenge and are confident we can turn this result around."

Following their outright victory NSW sit on top of the table with Victoria and South Australia close behind as the other Round 1 winners.

EAP will head to Henshilwood Oval in Irymple to take on Western Australia in Round 2 of the ACCC.

Match Two: EAP bounce back with win over WA

The East Asia - Pacific (EAP) team today bounced back from their disappointing Round 1 result to record a hard fought win against Western Australia (WA) in Round 2 of the Australian Country Cricket Championships (ACCC) being contested in Mildura, Victoria.

EAP Captain Rarua Dikana won his second consecutive toss and elected to bat on a hard but slightly grassy wicket at Henshilwood Oval in Irymple.

Having been dismissed twice by NSW the previous day, the EAP batsmen were looking to work into some form and openers Arua Uda and Tikovanualevu Kida set about doing just that. The pair fought their way through the new ball and reached 84 (an EAP record) before Uda lost his wicket for 58 trying to loft over mid-on. Kida followed shortly after for 21 and EAP went to lunch at 2-87.

Senior players John Ovia and Jamie Brazier returned to the crease after the break however it wasn't long before WA had EAP on the ropes. Brazier's dismissal for 3 was followed by Assad Vala (0) and Mahuru Dai (1), and EAP had lost 5-15 in the period around lunch.

Talented 19 year old Andrew Mansale joined Ovia at the crease and the pair set about recovering the innings through an impressive display of disciplined batting. At tea EAP had reached 5-165 with Ovia's strokeplay combining well with Mansale's tight technique and aggressive running between wickets.

The pair continued on after tea before Ovia was caught at backward point off a thick outside edge for a well compiled 63. Wicket-keeper Ipi Morea (2) and Dikana (3) both failed to trouble the scorers and EAP was again on the back foot. Debutant Patrick Giles-Jones joined Mansale, and with the WA bowlers tiring in the Mildura heat, the pair began to find the boundary regularly as EAP pushed for late runs.

Mansale was eventually dismissed for an impressive 71. The all-rounder posting his highest score for EAP in his 3rd ACCC match.

Giles-Jones (28 not out) and Kitione Tavo (20 not out) pushed the score to 9-278 at the completion of the 100 overs with an unbeaten 25 run partnership.

With a healthy score on the board the EAP bowlers attacked the WA top order early on Day 2 but met sturdy resistance and went to lunch with the game evenly poised at 2-93. Hitolo Areni (2-61 off 21 overs) claimed the first wicket and then pulled off a spectacular run-out with a direct hit from fine leg.

The introduction of off-spinner Jamie Brazier (3-49 off 34) saw the runs dry up for WA. With support from Areni and fellow pace bowlers Tavo (1-54 off 16) and Dikana (0-26 off 16), Brazier built pressure on the WA middle order with the result being regular wickets throughout the middle session.

At tea EAP had moved into a winning position with WA on 6-171 requiring 108 runs for victory off 32 overs. This position strengthened shortly after the break as EAP raced through 15 overs claiming 2-37. With the required run rate increasing WA went on the attack however the EAP bowlers held their nerve. Tavo returned to claim the final wicket and dismiss WA for 226.

Brazier's 34 consecutive overs and an outstanding fielding display that netted 4 run outs, were the highlights for EAP as they recorded their first victory of the 2007 ACCC.

Commenting on the victory Brazier said: 'This was a tough game. We showed a lot of character to bounce back after Round 1 and worked really hard to get over the line. Our fielding today was excellent however there is still a lot of room for improvement in other aspects of our game. Hopefully we can push Queensland in Round 3 and get another win on the board."

EAP will head to Alcheringa Sports Ground in Gol Gol to take on reigning Champions Queensland in Round 3 of the ACCC.