The Big Story
Pre-tournament favourites Mele-Tafea Bulls have kept their Vanuatu T10 Blast hopes alive, stealing a last-over victory from the Mighty Efate Panters after falling to the spin of the Ifira Sharks in the earlier match of the day.
Ifira Sharks vs MT Bulls
MT Bulls 61-6 (10) defeated by Ifira Sharks 62-6 (8.5) by 4 wickets
A tacky wicket, combined with a spin-bowling exhibition from Obed Yosef and Stephane Sandy, handed the Ifira Sharks the early ascendancy, with skipper Nalin Nipiko’s 33* (24) steering his side home for their first win of the tournament.
Big fish Patrick Matautaava and captain Andrew Mansale both fell to Yosef in the first over, with the struggling Matautaava picking out Apolinaire Stephen at mid-off with a lazy drive off a full toss. Mansale by contrast could consider himself a little unlucky, falling to a delivery kicking off a length and catching the shoulder of his bat. Nipiko at first slip showed great reflexes to take a fine catch.
Crafty off-spinner Stephane Sandy got in on the act at the other end, removing Clement Tommy. After sweeping Sandy over mid-wicket, Tommy was too early looking to go again next ball. Apolinaire Stephen, patrolling long-off, was once again on hand to complete the catch.
The pressure to steady after the early collapse fell on the shoulders of Philip Tsione and Eddie Mansale, and it was Tsione given a life after ‘keeper Jamal Vira dropped a difficult chance. The pair put on 47 in the recovery mission, and while not putting the foot on the gas, ticked things over. Knowing the Sharks struggled on day one with the bat, the pair aimed to post a competitive total, rather than to go all out to reach three figures.
Apolinaire, never out of the game, broke the partnership and stemmed the flow of runs for the rest of the innings, with just nine runs scored in the last two overs. Godfrey Mangau and Marcel Taea were kept at bay, and every Sharks bowler finished with a wicket to their name as the Bulls were kept to six runs an over.
Defending 61, Andrew Mansale kept the new ball for himself with his off-spin, though the Sharks’ tactic to knock and run frustrated the Bulls who leaked runs in the infield. Nipiko put a bad ball away for six, and the Sharks were into double figures off the first over with little trouble.
Matautaava’s famous shape away from the right-hander in Associate circles was shown to the world in the second over, though it was his slower ball bouncer that dismissed William Yamak, who gloved the last ball of the second over to a grateful Tommy. Tommy also played a part in the wicket of Jamal Vira moments later, with his keeping counterpart top-edging a Mangau delivery after coming down the track.
Despite the presence of Nipiko in the middle, the Bulls could smell blood and almost looked to take the wickets of everyone around the national team captain. The Mansale brothers combined to take three wickets in the space of two overs, though they may have timed their all-out assault an over too late, with the death bowling of Matautaava not quite properly deployed. Nipiko wrapped the tail with cotton wool and guided his team home, though it was Wesley Vira’s square drive that scored the winning runs.
Mighty Efate Panthers vs MT Bulls
Mighty Efate Panthers 130-3 (10) defeated by MT Bulls 135-7 (9.5) by 3 wickets.
Rival Samson and Darren Wotu were two unlikely heroes for the Bulls who chased down a mammoth target of 131 as the sun set in Port Vila.
Panthers skipper Joshua Rasu, sporting a new haircut and celebrating his birthday, won the toss and elected to bat, only to lose his opening partner Lazaro Carlot and Jarryd Allan in successive balls. Carlot looked disgusted at himself picking out mid-off, with Allen’s frustration more at those around him after perhaps copping a rough LBW.
Despite having the Panthers two down for one in the first over, Andrew Mansale chose not to put the foot to the throat by bringing on Patrick Matautaava, instead opting to throw the ball around to a number of players who were yet to bowl in the tournament. Marcel Taea’s second over consisted of four consecutive sixes, and Wesley Vira raced into the forties. Coming up short of 50, Vira fell victim to the so called Banana Bay Doctor, hitting into the wind to Matautaava at long on for 48 (22). Rasu took his chances hitting against the breeze, dominating with some six sixes of his own to finish with an unbeaten 69 off 29 deliveries.
Needing a miracle, Matautaava’s malaise looked over after he put Simpson Obed’s first ball over the rope, only to fall LBW next ball going away from his strengths and missing a reverse sweep attempt. Andrew Mansale fell hitting into the deep for 17, leaving Clement Tommy and the lower order to fight tooth and nail to keep their tournament alive. Tommy swung away into the leg-side for a 19-ball 50 and Philip Tsione’s 21 (10) pushed the team along faster than the required rate.
The Bulls had given themselves a chance at 5-111 from eight overs, though the odds were certainly not in their favour given the lack of batting pedigree left in the sheds. Samson stepped up from relative obscurity, slogging over long on for a crucial six in the ninth over, complimenting it with a lap pull to square leg for four to swing the game in his team’s favour.
With his opponents now needing just eight off the last over, Rasu was left with things to ponder, and opted against his own off-spin with the breeze helping the Bulls’ plans of hitting straight.
Kendy Kenneth and his medium pace was given the unenviable task of bowling the last over, though the pair of Samson and Wotu stepped up. Squeezing singles and twos against the spread field, Wotu’s eyes lit up watching Kenneth’s penultimate ball come down, with his slog easily clearing the ropes, handing his team a crucial victory.
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