Japan and Belgium had the perfect starts to their Pepsi World Cricket League Division 8 (WCL Div 8) campaign with commanding victories over Suriname and Bhutan in day one group B matches at the Garden Ovals in Samoa.
In group A Vanuatu overcame a middle order collapse to easily defeat Norway and Ghana impressed in their 50 run win over the hosts Samoa.
Japan made a solid start after being sent in to bat by Suriname with Naoki Miyaji and Jarrod Shearer remaining composed throughout the first 25 overs to take their side to 0-90.
With the foundation in place and wickets in hand Japan decided it was time to take it up and notch and set about lifting their run rate.
However despite a lack of wickets Suriname captain Shazam Ramjohn bowled an economical spell of 0-18 off seven overs preventing Miyaji and Shearer from lifting the run rate much above three an over.
After 30 overs the Suriname side who only touched down in Samoa that morning began to tire, and Shearer and Miyaji took full advantage by smashing a number of sixes to significantly boost the run rate.
Suriname’s Yuvraj Dayal instigated a mini revival for his side claiming both Japan openers in the space of four overs.
However Japan’s Alex Patmore (25) and Hanif Khan Muhammad (41) ensured their side posted a competitive 8-229 off their 50 overs.
Despite being a little expensive Suriname’s Vishaul Singh was the leading wicket taker with four wickets.
In the second innings Japanese opening bowler Satoshi Nakano provided the most explosive 15 minutes of the days play when he singlehandedly tore through the Suriname top order taking four early wickets.
Nakano was well assisted in the field by two spectacular catches. A brilliant one handed stretch from Alex Patmore and a diving catch at covers from Kazuyuki Ogawa.
Rain looked like Suriname’s only chance to salvage a result and after six overs they got their wish and play was delayed with the score 4-15.
When play resumed Japan who were well ahead on Duckworth Lewis switched their focus to getting through 20 overs and ensuring a result.
Once that was achieved confidence grew even higher in the Japanese camp and they took complete control of the match bowling a jetlagged Suriname out for 87.
Nakano finished with magnificent figures of five for 27 to win man of the match. For Suriname their only shining light with the bat was Vishaul Angad Singh who made 35.
“We knew that Suriname was affected by arriving only this morning but we couldn’t let ourselves worry about that,” said man of the match Nakano. “We just made sure we played to our plan and I am really happy with the win.”
On Garden Oval 1, Bhutan won the toss and elected to bat against Belgium and it wasn’t long before they found themselves under pressure thanks to some accurate bowling from Abdul Rehman and Shahid Muhammad who each took two early wickets.
Sonam Tobgay was the only top order batsman to pose any sort of early resistance before he was bowled by Rehman for 16.
After the removal of Tobgay, Belgium continued the tight bowling display through their skipper Andre Wagener.
Wagener’s height and bounce troubled the Bhutan batsman who faced a significant uphill battle when they fell to 4-40 off the first 15 overs.
The wickets continued to fall at regular intervals throughout the innings for Bhutan as they eventually slumped to all out for 79 off 35.3 overs.
A late cameo from Amir Iqbal saw him claim the best bowling figures of the innings with three for 4.
With rain threatening quick runs were going to be important for the Belgium side.
Bhutan openers Lobzang Yobten and Tobgay had a different idea though bowling economical spells to leave Belgium stranded on 1-31 off 14.2 when rain delayed the match by 25 minutes.
Upon returning to the pitch the Belgian combination of Nirvam Shah and Shahid Muhammad wasted no time in lifting the run rate cruising to victory in 25.1 overs with nine wickets in hand.
Shah finished 34 not out and Muhammad 30 not out.
“To have our first win in World Cricket League feels great,” said Belgian captain Andre Wagener. “We put the screws on early on then let it slip a little in the middle, but fought back with some good patience and it paid off.”
Ghana made their intentions clear early against the hosts Samoa on Garden Oval 3 racing to 3-111 off 21 overs thanks to an entertaining half century from Francis Bakiweyem.
Samoa then fought back well after the initial onslaught taking 4-17 off the next six overs to have Ghana on the back foot at 6-129.
A late knock of 43 not out from captain Peter Ananya gave Ghana something to bowl at as they were eventually all out in the 49th over for 206.
Samoa shared the wickets around with Sipiliano Tua the best of the bowlers taking three wickets.
In reply the hosts started well with Sean Cotter and Ben Mailata putting together what looked to be a match winning 100 run partnership.
However when the pair were dismissed in consecutive overs it triggered a collapse for Samoa lead mainly by some outstanding pace bowling by Ankrah Kind-David and Kofi Bagabina.
Samoa lost five wickets for 8 runs to find themselves 6-114 and running out of options.
A late flurry of sixes from Faasao Mulivai gave them some hope but Ghana responded strongly to dismiss Mulivai and eventually Samoa for 156.
“Overall we are really happy to have our first World Cricket League win,” said Ghana captain Peter Ananya. “We still need to work on our batting in the middle order but we are confident we can get that right.”
“It will be a big game against Vanuatu on Monday because they also had a win today,” Ananya continued. “I think we were both keeping an eye on each other today so I can’t wait until we meet.”