Vanuatu and Ghana booked semifinal spots from Group A after hard fought victories over Samoa and Norway on the final day of group matches at the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 8 in Samoa.
While in Group B Japan defeated Belgium to claim top spot relegating the Europeans to second, and in the other group B match Suriname recovered from 6-23 to post their first win of the tournament over Bhutan.
Vanuatu openers Damian Smith and Lenica Natapei got off to a steady start after being sent into bat by Samoa on Garden Oval 3.
The pair put on 17 before Smith was caught behind off the bowling of Faasao Mulivai.
Skipper Andrew Mansale came to the crease and played a useful knock of 30 before Winston Mariner deceived him with his off-spin and sent him back to the sheds leaving the score 4-86 off 25 overs.
Simpson Obed and Nalin Nipiko played some controlled strokes on their way to a 45 run partnership before Samoa again fought back through Ben Mailata who dismissed both batsman in his first over.
After removing the dangerous combination of Obed and Nipiko, Mailata and fellow countryman Daniel Burgess continued to trouble the Vanuatu batsman who collapsed to 9-152.
Demonstrating the character they have shown all week, Vanuatu refused to lie down with a 41 run partnership for the 10th wicket between Trevor Langer who belted a run a ball 36 and Kenny Tari who chipped in with 12.
Mailata backed up his four wickets against Norway with another four, while for Vanuatu Langa was the top scorer.
With net run rate crucial Samoa needed to chase down Vanuatu’s total in 41 overs to overtake them on the table and secure a semifinal berth.
They gave themselves every opportunity early in the chase with Sean Cotter, Ben Mailata and Geoff Clarke all scoring quick runs.
Cruising at 1-83 off 17 overs Samoa lost two wickets in quick succession to once again be under pressure. Mansale started the fight back claiming the prize scalp of Ben Mailata caught behind, while some tidy fielding from Nipiko saw Daniel Burgess join Mailata back in the sheds.
Despite losing regular wickets Samoa kept the run rate ticking along at near on six an over for much of the chase.
With the score 4-94 Faasao Mulivai came to the crease with his side needing the last 100 runs in quick time.
Despite wickets falling around him Mulivai smashed three 6s and three 4s to race to 33 and put his side in the box seat.
Needing to change things up Vanuatu captain Mansale threw the ball to young Nipiko who has shown maturity beyond his years all week in Samoa.
Nipiko ripped a ball in just short of a length causing Mulivai to spray the ball to point and Vanuatu hung on to win by 21 runs.
Nipiko was awarded the man of the match with 30 runs and three wickets.
“I think the boys really deserve their place in the semifinals with all the work they have done,” said Vanuatu captain Andrew Mansale. “I think Nalin will become a really great player in years to come and for him to step up and take those final wickets, especially Faasao (Mulivai) was fantastic.”
In a match that would decide top spot in Group B Japan won the toss and elected to bat against Belgium on Garden Oval 2.
Shahid Muhammad and Waqas Shafiq were right on line in their opening spells beating the outside edge on a number of occasions.
However as they have done all week the Japanese batsman demonstrated tremendous patience in the early overs frustrating the Belgian side.
Belgium’s Shaival Mehta needed to make a statement for the Europeans and did so with the key wickets of Alex Patmore and Japanese skipper Tatsuro Chino to put his side on top with the score 3-27.
A 90 run partnership between Daniel Mee and the inform Masaomi Kobayashi kept the match evenly poised.
Mee and Kobayashi played beautifully throughout their partnership, the highlight being a huge six hit straight back over the bowlers head from Kobayashi.
However every time Japan looked on top Belgium would fight back with a timely wicket.
In a true arm wrestle Japan finished 9-194 off their 50 overs. Kobayashi and Mee both scored terrific half centuries while for Belgium Mehta was instrumental for his side with three wickets.
Belgium struggled to get into gear in reply against Japan losing two early wickets eventually slumping to 4-62 off 20 overs.
In the end some brilliant stump work from Japanese keeper Tatsuro Chino and solid fielding from his side was the difference in the match as Japan bowled Belgium out for 111 in the 35th over.
The win secured Japan top spot in group B, while Belgium qualified for the semifinals finishing second.
“We knew today we just had to the basics really well and build pressure with the ball,” said Japanese coach Chris Ferguson. “The really pleasing thing is that we have been under a lot of pressure in the last two matches and different guys have stood up for us.”