A four-wicket victory for Moce over local rivals Ono-i-Lau saw them retain Fiji’s newest domestic trophy at the first time of asking, as the nation selects its squad for the upcoming East Asia Pacific Global Qualifiers.
The Fiji Association Cup launched last November, with a tournament in the capital of Suva marking the first occasion that 50-over cricket had been played in Fiji in over a decade. The Cup was founded with the ICC’s requirement that Associate nations must have a 40+ over domestic tournament in mind, but CEO Alex Konrote stated it would have bearing on the national team squad selection for the East Asia Pacific qualifiers, to be held later this year in Japan. A 30-man training squad was announced at the same time as the cup tie, to be reduced for the final touring squad.
The first tournament consisted of a 20-over group stage, with 50-over knockout matches for the top four teams, and hosts Suva lifted the Cup after an enormous 268-run victory over Ono-i-Lau, with Peni Dakai Jnr returning remarkable figures of 7/10 in the second innings.
The cup then took on a different format, as teams would be invited to challenge the holders in a single 50-over match. Moce, who had been knocked out in the semi-finals in the first tournament, were the first challenger for Suva and managed an instant cup upset, winning by 46 runs in February. As the holders, Moce considered hosting the next tie in their home ground but opted to continue on the neutral territory of Suva’s Albert Park. Moce is a small island with a population of approximately 600 in the Lau group, and 9 out of the 11 players in that game had travelled from the island specifically for it.
Ono-i-Lau, local rivals also from the Lau island group, took the game ‘down to the wire’, according to Sitiveni Rokoro, Cricket Fiji’s development manager. But strong batting from Moce saw them across the line with four wickets in hand – a result that might put some players in good stead with the national team selectors as they have identified batting as an area of weakness.
The next challengers for Moce are Kabara, another local rival from the Lau group. Moce will once again consider hosting the match at their home ground, an especially exciting prospect given the derby nature of the match. Speaking to the Fiji Sun, Rokoro stated ‘we are now into the offseason, we are still contemplating on where to hold these Association Cup challenge matches. One option, we are looking at is for Kabara to travel to Moce but all of this will depend on the shipping services.’
Namuka and Oneata are next in line to challenge the cup holders after Kabara, likely to be held next summer.
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