USA crush Fiji
A weakened Fiji side have been comprehensively smashed by a margin of 285 runs by the United States at the Engineering Campus Ground at Lalitpur in Nepal today.
Without East Asia-Pacific representatives, Josaia Baba, who appears to have been a late withdrawal from the touring squad, and paceman Sakaraia Lomani, the Fijians were on the back foot before play even started.
Lomani is the key bowler in the side and one can only assume that injury prevented him from taking his place in the line-up.
That aside, it was nevertheless a very worrying display from the Pacific Islanders. They conceded 28 extras in the field including 11 wides, five no balls and nine byes. Veteran spinner Iniasi Cakacaka was the only Fijian to bowl a maiden. His ten overs cost 33 while all his team mates went for at least 5.85 runs per over. Jo Dabea was at least able to prize out four American batsmen but at an economy rate of 10.50.
Still, the USA is a team that has proved that it is quite capable of mixing it with ODI status countries. Steve Massiah (74), Rashard Marshall (61), Lennox Cush (50), Orlando Baker (46), Aditya Thyagarajan (39) and Timroy Allen (32) are familiar names to those who followed the recent World T20 qualifiers and they batted in a manner befitting players who are probably a lot better than division five standard.
353 is a massive score to concede to the opposition at this level and there was very little hope of chasing it down but a nice competitive reply of between 200 and 250 should have been possible.
However, the batting was just as shaky as the bowling.
Strangely, regular opener and captain Joe Rika did not bat until the fifth wicket had fallen. By then Fiji were 38 after 11.3 overs.
If Rika was unwell or injured it will hopefully be revealed in due course but it was unusual to see him batting so low down in the order. He is a fine stroke maker. As it was he grafted away for 35 balls to make just two.
It was also a surprise to see Maciu Gauna not in the line-up as he has averaged more than 64 with the bat playing club cricket in Australia this season.
After his four wicket haul earlier in the day, Dabea batted with admirable determination - refusing to give his wicket away as he dug deep for a 60 ball 13 not out. No other Fijian reached double figures and it was only the generosity of the Americans, who gifted 21 sundries, which enabled the Blues to reach a paltry 68.
So, another triumph for an expat side. There has been a lot of that going in recent World Cricket League tournaments. Division 6 in Singapore last year was a prime example. Perhaps this event is heading the same way.
The ICC should be concerned. Since the funding rules changed to accommodate performance only rather than development, some countries have been stacking their squads with players who are from test playing nations.
Surely the purpose of the development program is not to transport existing players from the full member countries to the associates and affiliates. If players are moving from one country to another it implies that the overall playing numbers around the world are not increasing - just being redistributed.
In their bid for the higher funding that is afforded to the better ranked associates and affiliates, some countries are ditching their homegrown players in search of a short term result and a quick buck. Others aren't even bothering to develop from within and it's not as though they haven't had plenty of time to work on the issue. Many of these countries have been playing the sport for a century. How much more time do they want? How many more empty promises will there be?
When the ICC development program started in 1997 fans had the right to expect that homegrown players would come to the fore over time yet he we are 13 years later with the same old expat based Gulf States, the usual USA and Canadian line-ups and worse still, Hong Kong and Singapore now seem to have less indigenous players than ever.
Where is the reward for the countries that are busting a gut trying to genuinely teach cricket to all of it's citizens not just a clique who already knew how to play the game.
All that is of little concern to the Fiji squad right now. They will need to show more fight against Jersey tomorrow.