The Big Blast Story
The Mighty Efate Panthers have defeated the Ifira Sharks to secure a spot in next Saturday’s Vanuatu Blast final, while the MT Bulls kept their tournament hopes alive, chasing a target of 95 inside seven overs earlier in the day despite the loss of Patrick Matautaava to a shoulder injury.
Match 1 – Mighty Efate Panthers vs. MT Bulls
Mighty Efate Panthers 94-9 (W. Vira 22, Markia 21, Mangau 2-18, A.Mansale 2-18) defeated by MT Bulls 100-1 (6.5) (A. Mansale 43, Tsione 37, Rasu 1-35) by nine wickets.
Former national team captain Andrew Mansale was back to his devastating best for the MT Bulls, taking two death-over wickets and bludgeoning 32 runs in boundaries in a rout of the Mighty Efate Panthers in the first match of the day.
After Matautaava left the field, sustaining his injury taking a diving catch to remove the top-scoring Wesley Viraliliu, Mansale and Philip Tsione teamed up with an 84-run opening stand in just 6.2 overs to put the result beyond any doubt. A consolation caught and bowled scalp for Panthers captain Josh Rasu was the only blemish on a near-flawless scorecard.
After the Bulls won the toss and sent the Panthers in, Rasu plundered ten off the first five balls of the innings, before gloving an attempted hook shot to a grateful Clement Tommy behind the stumps. Lazaro Carlot fell soon after, before Jarryd Allan and Viraliliu were tasked to rebuild the innings. Allen launched three sixes in his innings of 19 (7), before being undone by a clever leg-stumping plan, executed by Tommy and Godfrey Mangau.
Before his blistering knock in the second innings, Philip Tsione completed a highlight reel catch in the deep to remove Simpson Obed. Tsione, with a vertical leap a player in the NBA would be proud of, plucked the ball at the top of his jump, much to the joy of his teammates rushing towards him in celebration.
MacMillan Markia’s 21 (13) lifted the Panthers to a score approaching three figures, though he was run out with five balls left in the innings. Mansale held his nerve with ball in hand, conceding just three runs in the rest of the over.
After the Tsione and Mansale onslaught, any talk of needing Matautaava to claim the important victory was academic. Always ahead of the game, the Bulls were also helped by sloppy fielding, as well as Viraliliu making a crucial error of bowling a front-foot no-ball, nullifying his near-perfect slower ball yorker that should have sent Tsione back. Kendy Kenneth dropped a regulation catch soon after, and with the ball following him, he put down another simple chance the very next ball.
Clement Tommy finished the job after Rasu’s trivial wicket, blasting a four and two sixes to ensure the match was wrapped up within seven overs, handing his team a much-needed two points and a significant net run rate boost.
Match 2 – Mighty Efate Panthers vs. Ifira Sharks
Mighty Efate Panthers 72-4 (Viraliliu 35, Yoseph 1-12, V.Vira 1-12) defeated Ifira Sharks 59-8 (J. Vira 22, Yamak 15, Obed 2-5, Sala 1-6) by 13 runs
The Panthers failed to execute their plans with the bat in the second match, though a tighter bowling and fielding effort was enough for victory, defending 72 and guaranteeing a spot in the final next Saturday.
Struggling to up the tempo in the innings, the Panthers jumped on the back of Wesley Viraliliu, who top-scored with 35 from 20 balls. Entering at 8-2 Viraliliu stamped his authority on the game early, hitting three fours and two sixes before falling to Vince Vira in the penultimate over. Outside of Viraliliu, only Josh Rasu managed to strike at faster than a run a ball, suggesting that the VCG wicket may have been on the slower side for the second fixture of the day.
The Panthers stifled the Sharks top order, restricting the men in blue to 19-4 inside four overs. The trusty left-arm orthodox of Simspon Obed claimed the opening pair of Nalin Nipiko and Apolinaire Stephen, with Viraliliu and Kenny Tari removing Bethan Moli and Wolford Kalworai respectively.
National wicket keeper Jamal Vira and William Yamak strived to set up the team’s chase, though the Panthers tightened the screws in the field. Yamak fell for a well-compiled 15, though burning almost four overs meant that the Sharks needed over ten an over for a now-unlikely victory. Jamal tried to up the ante, though Shem Sala and Tony Tamata were crafty, with an array of off-pace deliveries too difficult to dispatch. Tamata claimed Alex Stephen with another disguised slower ball, giving his team 16 runs to defend in the final over.
Viraliliu was thrown the ball to bowl the tenth over, and it was again the pace taken off that did the damage. Hesitating to run a bye, a slick underarm from Jarryd Allan removed keeping counterpart Jamal Vira to seal victory, and the gloveman helped himself to a second run out a few balls later, dismissing Stephane Sandy to put the icing on the cake.
The result means the Panthers have secured a spot in next Saturday afternoon’s finale, with the early match between the Bulls and Sharks effectively a semi to decide who claims the other final spot.
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