Cricket will feature for the eighth time in the Pacific Games, with Samoa’s Tuanaimato Sports Complex in Faleata the host of the 2019 competition.
Cricket is one of 11 sports beginning its program on the first day of the games starting on Monday, with the medals in both men’s and women’s disciplines decided on Saturday.
Both the Men’s and Women’s formats feature four teams, with Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Vanuatu competing in both competitions. Fiji will take part as the fourth Women’s team, with New Caledonia the fourth on the Men’s side of things. Matches involving New Caledonia will not be counted as T20Is, as they are yet to be members of the International Cricket Council.
At home, Samoa’s women will look to defend their crown, after winning 2015’s final by three runs over PNG in Port Moresby. The Lewas of PNG do have the wood over their rivals though, beating them on the final day of Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifying in Vanuatu to claim the East Asia Pacific spot for the World Qualifier later this year.
Vanuatu’s third place at the EAP qualifier puts them as the more likely outfit to challenge PNG and Samoa this time around, with Fiji keen to improve on their winless effort in. They only need to look at the 2015 games for inspiration, winning the Bronze medal match over Vanuatu by 12 runs at Colts Cricket Ground.
Regina Lili’i will carry the brunt of home nation expectation, after starring in last month’s qualifier. Scoring 153 in five innings, it looked at one point that she was not to be dismissed for the whole tournament. She eventually fell to Ravina Oa in the final game, incidentally in the only game Samoa lost in the campaign.
On the men’s side, Papua New Guinea sit as favourites, on the back of recent T20 EAP Qualifying form and longer format success at World Cricket League 2. They’ll look to topple Vanuatu, who are defending champions from four years ago.
Papua New Guinea were unable to play a full strength side at home four years ago, with the games clashing with the World World T20 Qualifier. Jason Kila and Kiplin Doriga, who now feature in the PNG’s best side on paper, could well be the only two players in this year’s squad from the 2015 silver medal winning team.
Andrew Mansale will skipper Vanuatu’s title defence, sixteen years after his first Pacific Games. Now 33, the man from Mele Village on the Central Island of Efate leads from the front with both bat and ball. A handful of Vanuatu’s winning side in 2015 will join Mansale again in Samoa, with Patrick Matautaava, Joshua Rasu, Nalin Nipiko, Simpson Obed, Jelany Chilia and Ronald Tari providing their team’s core.
Brought into the Vanuatu set up this year, 24-year-old bowler Kalo Shem has achieved a feat few other others have achieved, having played and umpired at international level. Debuting as a player for Vanuatu in March, Shem also officiated at the East Asia Pacific ICC Women’s Qualifier in May. While umpiring after a playing career is common place, juggling both roles concurrently is rare. Shem joins Ireland’s Mary Waldron as another player to currently feature as both a player and umpire at international level.
While Samoa’s women are defending champions, their Men return to host a tournament that they haven’t partaken in since 2007. There may be an element of déjà vu in this year’s event, with the venue and their predicted finish the same as their bronze medal effort 12 years ago. New Caledonia are yet to taste victory in men’s play at the Pacific Games in their 16-year participation. Still a non-member of the ICC, they are long odds to do anything to upset the apple cart.
Day 1 action begins on Monday morning for the men, with Samoa taking on PNG with Vanuatu playing New Caledonia. In the afternoon, PNG look for 2015 revenge against Vanuatu, with Samoa taking on New Caledonia. The women enjoy a morning off on Monday, with play commencing in the afternoon session. Samoa play Papua New Guinea, with Vanuatu up against Fiji.
Reserves sessions are in place if there is to be any inclement weather during the tournament.