The Big Story
Skipper Nalin Nipiko starred with bat and ball against the MT Bulls as Ifira Sharks bounced back from a 30-run trouncing at the hands of the Might Efate Panthers earlier in the day.
Match 1 – Mighty Efate Panthers vs. Ifira Sharks
MEP 99/6 (Obed 40, Stephen 2-17, Unavalu 2-19) beat Ifira Sharks 69/9 (Nipiko 25, Rasu 3-7, Kenny Tari 2-17) by 30 runs
Simpson Obed laid the foundation for an imposing target of 100, before skipper Joshua Rasu claimed a hat-trick to stifle Ifira’s chase and propel the Panthers to the top of the Vanuatu T10 Blast table.
After losing the toss and being put in to bat, the Panthers suffered an early scare when Joshua Rasu tried to force Obed Yousuf through the covers off the back foot.
The on-air commentators seemed to think it was an outside edge, but Rasu was unperturbed, pulling the next delivery along the carpet to the mid wicket boundary, before unleashing a pull shot that sailed over the deep mid wicket fielder.
Attempting an action replay, this time off the bowling of teenage leggie Vince Vira, Rasu only managed to find William Yamak on the boundary.
Walking in at 3, Jarryd Allan chipped in with an attractive 22 (13) to keep things ticking along.
And then came the collapse.
Lazaro Carlot skied an Apolinaire Stephen slower ball straight to William Yamak at deep mid wicket. Danger man Wesley Viraliuliu then mishit a Niko Unavalu delivery straight to Bethan Moli at long on before Jarryd Allan skied one up off the very next ball.
At 50/4 after 5.4 overs, it looked like MEP’s innings was running out of steam.
Simpson Obed had other ideas.
The Panthers’ all-rounder peppered Ifira skipper Nalin Nipiko and Niko Unavalu to all parts of the ground on his way to 40 (16), excelling off both front foot and back foot.
Stephen then dragged things back slightly, conceding just 8 off the final over of the innings to leave a brittle Sharks batting line-up with a challenging chase of 100.
In reply, Nalin Nipiko launched Simpson Obed for 20 off the first over of the innings.
Panthers skipper Joshua Rasu persisted with Obed for another over and the move paid off as Nipiko swept the off-spinner straight to Selwyn Garae at fine leg. Four balls later, William Yamak followed his skipper back to the pavilion after top-edging an attempted flick to Rasu at midwicket.
With the required run rate steadily climbing, Rasu and Tony Tamata teamed up to keep things quiet before Rasu snared Vira, Stephen, and Unavalu on the way to a match-turning hat-trick.
Not wanting to miss out, Kenny Tari picked up two wickets off consecutive deliveries to leave the Sharks reeling at 50/9 in the 8th over.
An unbeaten final wicket stand of 19 was merely a band-aid on a bullet wound as Ifira fell 30 runs short of Mighty Efate’s total.
The Panthers, with their third victory in four games, solidified their lead at the top of the table as Ifira were left with a mere 15 minutes to recuperate before their next bout against the MT Bulls.
MT Bulls vs. Ifira Sharks – Match 2
Ifira Sharks 108/7 (Nipiko 78, Andrew Mansale 4-24) beat MT Bulls 95/7 (Mansale 34, Sandy 3-1, Unavalu 2-16, Nipiko 1-15) by 13 runs.
It was the Nalin Nipiko show as the all-rounder and new national team captain clobbered an unbeaten 28-ball 78 and bowled a tight penultimate over to push the Sharks over the MT Bulls in the league standings.
Sensing an opportunity against the weakest batting line-up in the tournament, MTB captain Andrew Mansale put the Sharks in to bat.
To start things off, Patrick Matautaava had openers Apolinaire Stephen and Nipiko ducking and weaving on their way to just 4 off the first over.
Nipiko, however, wrestled back the momentum, lofting Willaimsingh Nalisa — who looked rusty on his return from a groin injury — over cover for three boundaries in the very next over.
Unfortunately, and rather predictably, Ifira collapsed once again, losing four wickets in their next seven balls, including pinch hitter Stephen and veteran Jamal Vira.
Nipiko was playing a different game at the other end as he lofted his opposite number over his head for a straight six either side of two boundaries. Having lost half their side for 44 at the halfway stage, it seemed as if Ifira’s hopes of setting a competitive total rested squarely on the broad shoulders of “Captain Fantastic.”
However, Niko Unavalu chipped in with a few lusty hits of his own including a lofted drive that flew over the fielder at deep extra cover.
With runs coming from both ends, Mansale turned to spearhead Matautaava, who softened up Unavalu with a pair of short balls before the Sharks’ number seven lofted a fuller delivery to the fielder at long on.
A sedate period of play, however, would soon turn into utter carnage.
Having bowled out his quicks, Mansale was forced to turn to Nalisa in the last over. Nipiko continued to brutalize the hapless leggie with four consecutive maximums over cow corner and straight down the ground.
In the Bulls’ response, Matautaava finally found his stride. He began his innings with yet another first-ball six when he danced down the track to loft Obed Yousuf over his head.
Even after he fell in the fourth over with the score on 37, Mansale and Tommy continued on their merry way, pummeling 36 runs in the next 13 balls.
And then came the turning point.
Unavalu began to turn things around in the middle overs with the massive scalps of Andrew Mansale and Clement Tommy off successive deliveries. Tommy, who lost his wicket after backing away too far and getting bowled while attempting a slash through point, was kicking himself as he trudged off to the dugout.
He knew he’d let the Sharks back in the game. And didn’t the Sharks know it too?
Despite a pair of misfields on the boundary off Vince Vira’s bowling, Ifira kept the required rate hovering around 10 RPO. Skipper Nipiko stepped up again in the penultimate over, conceding just six runs off it, two of which were scored off a seventh ball that shouldn’t have been bowled.
With 15 required off the last over, Rival Samson was unable to repeat last week’s heroics, and was stumped off first ball of last over, failing to reach a Stephane Sandy ball tossed wide outside off.
Sandy, bowling his first over of the game, nailed his line once again off the next ball as Nono Chilia played and missed. With 15 needed off 4, Chilia swung hard again, but only managed to find long on who made no mistake.
With 15 still needed off the last 3, Nalisa miscued a drive that travelled along the carpet to mid off for just single. Darren Wotu swung hard, lost his balance, and was stumped off the next ball as Ifira Sharks celebrated a much-needed 13-run win.
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