Papua New Guinea fast bowler Loa Nou clean bowls one of the Japanese batsmenPapua New Guinea (PNG) justified its favourites tag to qualify for next year's ICC U/19 Cricket World Cup in Malaysia when it convincingly defeated Japan on the opening day of the ICC East Asia-Pacific U/19 Qualifier in the Pacific island of Vanuatu on Wednesday.

PNG wrapped up its match early at the Kazaa Field as Japan, batting first after winning the toss, was dismissed for only 37 runs.

PNG, attempting to return to the main round after missing the 2006 event in Sri Lanka, achieved the modest victory target without loss in just 24 balls with Alfred Amini hitting a rapid 20 not out.

PNG showed that its real strength was its bowlers as Joel Tom and Colin Amini shared six wickets between them, conceding just nine and five runs respectively, while opening bowler Loa Nou finished with 2-8 from seven overs.

Another PNG player to make an instant impact was wicketkeeper Arua Dikiana who took two good catches and also smartly stumped two Japan batsmen.

Photo top: Papua New Guinea fast bowler Loa Nou clean bowls one of the Japanese batsmen.
Photo lower: Vanuatu Captain, Andrew Mansale hitting a huge six against Fiji.

Elsewhere, hosts Vanuatu also made an equally impressive start when it defeated Fiji by nine wickets in front of a big crowd at Independence Park.

Vanuatu Captain, Andrew Mansale hitting a huge six against Fiji.Batting first, Fiji, who looked to be in a hurry, lost seven wickets for 53 runs and was all out for 84 in 18.2 overs. Fast bowler Victor Aru shone with the leather and finished with 4-17 from five overs while Andrew Mansale (3-10) and Selwyn Garae (3-14) lent him good support.

The home team romped to victory in 18.4 overs with the loss of Garae who scored 21 and put on 50 for the opening wicket with Frederick Timakata (21).

Captain Mansale, who played in the EAP Cup in 2005 and has also represented the region, showed that he can be the difference between Vanuatu and other teams when he completed a good day by hammering a quick-fire 32 in a partnership of 37 with Timakata for the second wicket.

On Thursday, Vanuatu will take on Japan at the Kazaa Field while PNG meets Fiji at the Club Hippique.

The winner of the Vanuatu tournament 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.