Ronald Tari - Domestic Shield MVP (North Efate Bushpigs)
The final round of the 40 Over Domestic Shield had plenty on the line with every game potentially having an impact on where teams would end up in their bids for a grand final birth.
With reigning shield holders Mighty Saints playing Splashe Mele Bulls, Paama Sharks playing the Tusker Panthers and table topping North Efate Bushpigs taking on Tafea. It was only fair to assume that what would play out would be a thrilling finale in the fight for the top two spots.
It was the top of the table clash though that would eventually determine the finalists as Tafea defeated the Bushpigs led by newly crowned MVP, Ronald Tari. In cementing his spot as MVP Tari led the way for North Efate as he scored 125 of their 242 runs and took 2/41 as the tournament’s highest wicket taker alongside a handy 45 runs from Sam Strid. It was to be Tafea’s day though as Shay Narai’s bowling spell of 3/50 off his 8 overs dismantled the NE top order alongside national batsman Wamejo Wotu’s blistering 48 ball century which would eventually win the game for them as they chased the Bushpig’s score in 33 overs.
Sent into bat first Splashe Mele Bulls needed to set a large total in hopes of overcoming a net run rate deficit dealt to them by North Efate the week prior and that they did. Andrew Mansale’s 127 of 71 balls led the way as they put up 242 runs with Mighty Saints captain McMillan Markia taking 3/62 in his 8 overs. In reply the saints were for lack of a better term, valiant, in their chase. Superstar Nalin Nipiko’s opening stand of 126 alongside Markia’s 54 had them fall 2 runs short in a devastating loss with Eddie Mansale’s heroic 4/49 getting the bulls over the line in the 40th over.
The final game of the weekend would follow the same trend with Sharks captain and competition leading run scorer, Jamal Vira, taking on counterpart and MVP candidate Junior Kaltapau and the Tusker Panthers. Kaltapau’s 55 run stand alongside a quickfire 35 from Jarryd Allan set up the Panthers total of 155/9 whilst Apolinaire Stephen’s 2/19 off 4 the pick of the bowling with the quick making excellent use of the conditions. In reply the Sharks looked comfortable until Vira fell for 41 in what was Kaltapau’s only scalp in his 1/48 off his 8 overs with fellow Panther, Stewart Sandy, doing the most damage in his spell 3/33 off his 8 overs and when young Joshua Andrew was run out by Sandy the Sharks fell agonisingly short of another upset, all out for 152.
It would all come down to Net Run Rate though as the results meant four sides ended their campaigns on 8 points. But it would be the large wins for Tafea over Mighty Saints and North Efate over Splashe Mele Bulls in rounds 1 & 3 that would mean both sides qualify for the Grand Final.
Due to the impacts of Tropical Cyclone Judy and Kevin the Domestic Shield grand final will begin at 9am on Saturday the 25th of March at the Vanuatu Cricket Grounds (Korman).