International cricket comes to Waikaraka
Friday, 1 February 2013
Countries from around the East Asia Pacific will be battling it out to get one step closer to a T20 World Cup spot
This weekend seven cricketing nations from across the East Asia Pacific region begin their quest for a spot in the next T20 World Cup when the 2013 Pepsi ICC EAP T20 Championship kicks off at Waikaraka Park.
Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Japan and Indonesia all arrive in Auckland later this week in preparation for the tournaments opening day this Sunday. The sides will all face each other in a round robin with the top two teams advancing to the final next Thursday. The winner of that match earns a trip to Dubai later this year where they will have an oppourtunity to qualify for the next T20 World Cup.
Going into the event Papua New Guinea will be the heavy favourites to take out the title. Currently ranked number 19 in the world PNG are 20 places higher than any other side in this tournament and only just missed out on qualification for the last T20 World Cup. PNG have a host of star players to watch out for but perhaps the biggest name is opening batsman Assad Vala who was a member of the Brisbane Heat training squad during the recent Big Bash League 2 season.
Vanuatu are also a side to watch. Coached by former New South Wales all rounder Peter Wooden, they recently took out the World Cricket League Division 8 title going unbeaten throughout the tournament. Vanuatu are a young and athletic side led by skipper Andrew Mansale who is a talented off spinning all rounder and one of world cricket's best fielders.
Fiji and Japan are also ranked among the top 45 sides in the world and both will have ambitions of progressing to the next stage, as will Indonesia and the Cook Islands.
The team with most local interest in the tournament is Samoa. Samoa's player/coach is former Blackcap and Auckland fast bowler Murphy Su'a and the team is captained by Eden Roskill's Ben Mailata. Roskill team mate Sean Cotter will play a key role in Samoa's top order while both Waitakere City and Auckland University clubs are represented by Sa'o Mulivai and Ian West respectively.
Mailata is expecting plenty of close matches when the tournament begins on Sunday and believes his side has what it takes to progress to the next level: "We need to do the basics right and stick to our plans. If we can execute we will be in with a shot.
"PNG are the team to beat no doubt. However Vanuatu and Fiji will also be dangerous, not to mention Japan, but T20 is a game where momentum is key and if we can apply pressure then anything can happen."
Warm up matches:
Thursday 31st January - Lloyd Elsmore Park 2
10.30am Samoa v Fiji
2.30pm Samoa v Vanuatu
Friday 1st February - Colin Maiden Park 'B' Block
10.30am Fiji v Vanuatu
2.30pm Samoa v Vanuatu
Tournament Schedule - All matches played at Waikaraka Park
Sunday 3rd February Rounds one and two
Monday 4th February Rounds three and four
Tuesday 5th February Rest day
Wednesday 6th February Rounds five and six
Thursday 7th February Round seven (am) Final (pm)
Friday 8th February Rain delay day