EAP qualifying underway
It won't be long before we know the first two teams to qualify for the World Twenty20 Qualifier in the UAE later this year as the East Asia-Pacific regional qualifier began today in Aukland, New Zealand.
And it's Vanuatu who lead the way after the opening day, with wins over the Cook Islands and Japan thanks to two big scores from captain Andrew Mansale.
They came up against the Cook Islands in the morning match, and whilst Trevor Langa was dismissed in the first over, that didn't hinder the Vanuatu effort, as Andrew Mansale and Jonathon Dunn put on 138 in 14 overs for the second wicket.
That partnership ended when Dunn was bowled by Jon Kairua for 69, but Mansale stayed in until the end of the innings, taking his team to a huge total of 221-4. He was unlucky to miss out on a century, ending the innings unbeaten on 99.
The Cook Islands were never really in with a chance of chasing down such a mammoth total, but they managed to bat out their overs, scoring 103-6 to lose by 118 runs. Mansale also chipped in with the ball, taking two wickets.
Vanuatu's afternoon match against Japan progressed in similar fashion. An opening batsman - this time Jonathon Dunn - was dismissed early on before the third wicket put on a big partnership, with Trevor Langa and Andrew Mansale putting on 149 in 15 overs.
Langa was dismissed for 69 and Mansale again stayed into the end of the innings to take his team to 196-2. He again just missed out on a century, scoring an unbeaten 96. Japan were restricted to 91-9 from their 20 overs, losing by 105 runs.
That defeat was the second loss of the day for Japan, who also lost to Samoa in the morning. They scored 86 batting first, with exactly half of those runs coming from the bat of Alex Patmore. No other batsman reached double figures. Ian West bowled superbly for Samoa, taking 5-10.
Samoa, who feature former New Zealand international Murphy Su'a as player/coach, had little trouble chasing down the required runs, winning by 8 wickets with 7.2 overs to spare. Sean Cotter led the way with an unbeaten 42.
In the afternoon Samoa came up against tournament favourites Papua New Guinea in the latter team's only game of the opening day. PNG's total of 157-7 was built around an innings of 57 from Chris Kent. Samoan captain Ben Mailata was the pick of the bowlers with 3-20.
Samoa got a lot closer in reply than many would have expected thanks to a remarkable assault on the PNG bowlers by Faasao Mulivai, who smashed 62 from just 25 balls with nine sixes. It wasn't enough to win, but he got Samoa to within 17 runs of the PNG total.
The other team to play just one match on the opening day was PNG's old rivals Fiji, who had a simple win over Indonesia in the morning. They bowled out the Indonesians for just 46 with Jone Batinbulu taking 4-7. They didn't lose a wicket in reply, scoring the required runs in 5.3 overs.
Indonesia also lost their afternoon match as the Cook Islands bounced back from their morning defeat to Vanuatu. The Cook Islands batted first and after a brief scare which saw them struggling on 58-5, recovered to score 159-6. Tino Etita top scored with 50.
In reply, Indonesian opener Viraj Bhammar batted well with an unbeaten 66 from 44 balls, but no other batsman could stay in with him, with only one other reaching double figures. Indonesia were bowled out for 112 to lose by 47 runs.