19 Nov 2014

Sport: Vanuatu cricketers fancy chances against Pacific rivals

12:10 pm on 19 November 2014

A berth at next years World Twenty20 qualifier is on offer for the eight nations competing in the ICC East Asia-Pacific Men's Trophy, which gets underway in Lismore, New South Wales on Wednesday.

Papua New Guinea are defending champions, and a year ago went within one game of qualifying for the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh.

The Barramundi's are fresh off historic ODI wins against Hong Kong in Townsville and begin their title defence against the Cook Islands and Fiji.

Vanuatu are the other main title contenders, having finished runners-up in the past two EAP events.

Manager Mark Stafford says the Melanesians believe they can go all the way this time.

"Our guys have challenged PNG. Certainly through the under-age tournaments we've beaten them during tournaments and also over at the finals, as has happened in the senior tournaments. Our fellows are very keen. They know that they can get hold of Papua New Guinea. At the last T20 tournament we had them five for about 30 in the final and the opportunity is there for us to knock them off".

Meanwhile the Samoan cricket team are keeping their cards close to their chest ahead of their first match.

Most of the countries in Lismore have played a series of warm-up matches over the past few days but Samoan coach Anthony Bowler went the other route.

"We chose not to have a warm-up game. We just wanted to focus on our training and getting everything right. The other teams have had warm-up games [and] there's been a few upsets, let's say, so we're kind of coming in [as] dark-horses and no one is really knowing what to expect from us which is I think quite a good thing".

Bowler, who is making his international coaching debut this week, says there will be three new caps in the Samoa team for their first match against Japan.

In the other first-up clashes, Vanuatu play the Philippines, the Cook Islands face PNG and Indonesia to take on Fiji.