EAP tourney set to explode

Main Stories, Sports

The National – Monday, July 4th 2011

 VANUATU cricket captain Andrew Mansale said yesterday his team had waited eight years to settle an old score against hosts PNG.

Speaking on the eve of the citifon ICC East Asia Pacific Twenty20 championships in Port Moresby,  the gifted all-rounder, who has been a mainstay for his country and the EAP team at the annual Australian Country Cricket championships, said his side was looking forward to taking on the favourites and hosts PNG in the opening T20 fixture at Amini Park this morning.

“We last played PNG in 2003 and were well beaten that time but we’ve waited eight years to meet them again and we’re prepared for this tournament,” Mansale said.

Arguably one of the Pacific’s best cricketers, Mansale said his team had undergone quality preparations for the tournament having toured Queensland last month.

“We’re just coming off a T20 format in our domestic season and we toured the Gold Coast so we’re really looking forward to making this tournament an interesting and exciting one.”

Mansale is undoubtedly the star of the Vanuatu line-up but he said other players were keen on making their mark in PNG.

“Lasaro Calo (opener) is raring to go and I think he’ll make use of the conditions here which are similar to home.

“He’ll get the score ticking over.”

With the ball, Mansale, who is an accomplished off-spinner, said paceman Patrick Matautava would be given the responsibility of ripping into the PNG line-up.

The top order batsman admitted it would not be easy because all teams would be starting on an equal footing.

“Our goal is obviously to win this tournament but we’ll have to be at our best.

“It won’t be easy as all the teams are here to win and are of the same quality.”

The other sides in the five-team tournament which begins today and ends on Thursday are Fiji, Samoa and Japan.

Fiji will play Samoa in the other fixture at the adjacent Colts Oval while the afternoon matches see PNG take on Samoa and Fiji face  Japan.

Meanwhile, the PNG Hebou Barramundis are primed up for a powerhouse showing on home soil following a long history of dominance in the region.

Captain Rarua Dikana, 33, leads a youthful side which will be eager to show its talent to local fans after several high profile events earlier in the year which saw the country’s cricket stocks rise. 

Outsiders Japan have a point to prove despite performing far below their capabilities at a World Cricket League Division 7 tournament in Bostwana earlier in the year.

Coach Chris Ferguson is confident his side can learn form its mistakes and put together a credible performance.

“We made mistakes in Botswana but the players have reviewed their own performances, been honest with themselves and the team, and have put in a lot of hard work over the past six weeks to rectify the problems that we encountered,” Ferguson said.

Samoa’s captain Geoff Clarke is also an experienced club cricketer and will bring a wealth of knowledge and tactical nous to his side while Fiji have always seen themselves as the next country in line to take the mantle of EAP leader.

Barras’ keeper Jack Vare said preparations had been going well for the Andy Bichel-coached hosts who are determined not to waste an opportunity to perform at their peak on the local turf wickets.

“Representing your country in front of your family and friends is a great honour,” Vare said. 

“It is great to be able to show the exciting and entertaining brand of cricket we can play and demonstrate the spirit of PNG through cricket.”