CAPTION: Joji Bulabalavu Man of the Match.
Fiji rocked the boat early on, but was unable to sustain the pressure as Papua New Guinea’s bowlers proved too hot to handle in Wednesday’s morning session of the 2013 Pepsi ICC East Asia-Pacific Men’s Championship at Waikaraka Park.
On a track which played host to plenty of runs in the tournament’s opening two days, Papua New Guinea were delighted to win the toss and take first use of the Waikaraka Park 2 wicket.
Fiji’s 41-year old opening bowler Samuela Draunivudi stunned PNG with two crucial wickets in the very first over, trapping Tony Ura lbw for 1 before dismantling Jack Vare-Kevere’s stumps for a golden duck off the very next delivery.
Vuiyasawa Mateiwaqa followed up Draunivudi’s strikes by nicking out PNG run-machine Assadollah Vala, fresh off scoring 228 runs on Monday, for just 18 as the tournament favourites were in early disarray at 30 for 3.
However, just as PNG seemed to have built a platform from which to launch, Kent was stumped coming down to Joji Bulabalavu, who in tandem with Sekove Ravoka’s leg-spin ushered a few quiet overs into the middle stages of the innings.
Bulabalavu struck a vital blow during this period by removing Dai for 48 as PNG again looked vulnerable at 105-5 in the 14th over.
This vulnerability was indeed exposed as Bulabalavu, who finished with exceptional figures of 3-21, forced Lega Siaka to miscue a heave out to the cover sweeper, before Ravoka trapped Chris Amini lbw trying to sweep against the turn and PNG slipped further to 117-7.
Draunivudi came back to pick up two tail-end wickets before Ravoka finished the job as PNG were bowled out for just 146, the first time in the tournament that they had not preserved all ten wickets.
The PNG bowlers came out fired up, determined to atone for their performance with the bat snaring the key wickets of Ravoka and the Rika brothers early. Pipi Raho, Willie Gavera and Norman Vanua each took two wickets.
Bulabalavu was the only batsman to stand firm, continuing an excellent individual performance with an unbeaten 57 from 48 balls. Fiji managed 105-8 to eventually go down by 41 runs.
Dai acknowledged Fiji’s efforts and hoped his side would improve for the afternoon game.
“Fiji are a good team, they performed very well and were hard to beat. We worked hard [after Ura and Vala were out early] and our lower order battled well after early wickets went down.”