Author: Jay Dansinghani
Wrap ups brought to you by Vanuatu Cricket in partnership with Emerging Cricket
Ifira Sharks vs. MT Bulls
Ifira Sharks 96-2 (Nipiko 40, Stephen 24, E Mansale 2-22) defeated MT Bulls 89-7 (A Mansale 44, Matautaava 16, Nipiko 2-11, Unavalu 1-17) by 7 runs
Nalin Nipiko stole the headlines with an all-powerful all-round display to propel the Ifira Sharks into the final of the inaugural Vanuatu T10 Blast.
However, it could have been a very different story for Nipiko after he lost the toss and Ifira were put into bat.
Attempting to drag a Darren Wotu delivery from wide of the off stump in the first over, he skied it up to a back-peddling mid-off, who couldn’t cling on.
The Ifira skipper made MTB pay straight away with a golf swing over long on to get himself going before carting Godfrey Mangau over cow corner. Mangau failed to hang on to a sharp return catch off the very next delivery, granting Nipiko yet another life.
Apo Stephens provided some much-needed support at the other end with 24 (17). After he holed out to mid wicket, attempting to hit Eddie Mansale against the wind, the Bulls were able to drag things back, conceding just 8 runs off the next 2 overs.
Just as it looked like Nipiko was beginning to struggle with the pace of the pitch, he deposited Eddie Mansale over deep mid wicket and then over long on off consecutive deliveries. Attempting a hat-trick of sixes, he miscued one straight to Patrick Matautaava at point.
The next 7 deliveries yielded just 5 runs as MTB looked like they were clawing things back once again.
However, with Matautaava unable to bowl after injuring his shoulder in his last appearance for MTB, skipper Andrew Mansale was forced to turn to leggie Williamsing Nalisa for the final over. Nalisa was unable to keep the runs down, leaking 15 runs as Bethan Moli unleashed a series of sweep shots to collect a maximum and a boundary to close out the innings.
Chasing 97 for victory, Andrew Mansale got MTB off to a strong start laying into a surprisingly wayward Obed Yoseph. Not to be kept out of the action, Nipiko struck back to clean up Philip Tsione’s middle stump in the next over.
At 30-1 after 3, MTB had their noses in front before Apo Stephen delivered a succession of leg cutters that gripped in the surface and evaded the wild swings of Patrick Matautaava.
With just a single coming off the 4th over, the pressure was on Matautaava to pull the Bulls back into the contest. He greeted Vince Vira with a switch hit and conventional sweep, both of which went for a boundary before he skied one up to fine leg.
Clement Tommy departed soon after, falling victim to a direct hit from Nipiko running in from long off.
Skipper Mansale was unfazed as he pummeled Stephane Sandy for 20 off the 7th over of the innings to put the Bulls back in the driver’s seat.
However, the pendulum would swing for the umpteenth time, after Mansale flicked Unavalu straight to Samson Kalworai at deep mid wicket, leaving MTB with 25 runs still required off the last 14 balls.
The brilliant, ever-present Nipiko stepped up once again in the penultimate over, conceding just 2 runs as he utilized the surface to choke Williamsing Nalisa and Rival Samson with clever changes of pace.
With 20 runs needed off the last 6, Niko Unavalu closed things out with his own impressive display of slower balls, as the MT Bulls fell seven agonizing runs short of a spot in the final.
Final – Mighty Efate Panthers vs. Ifira Sharks
Ifira Sharks 85-4 (10) (Nipiko 23, Stephen 23, Rasu 2-9) defeated Mighty Efate Panthers 52-9 (10) (Viraliliu 20, Obed 14, Nipiko 2-9) by 33 runs
– Daniel Beswick
Another show-stopping individual effort from Nipiko stole the trophy from the Mighty Efate Panthers in a comfortable 33-run Grand Final victory.
Leading from the front in yet another outing befitting of his new role as national team captain, Nipiko was the Sharks’ joint top-scorer with the bat, finished with their best figures with the ball, and played a part in the field with an outfield catch and a pinpoint run out to lift the trophy.
Carrying the momentum of the earlier victory, Apolinaire Stephen launched an on-drive for six off the left-arm orthodox of Simpson Obed, who was uncharacteristically expensive in the final match. Obed’s fielders failed to help efforts, with two misfields in the opening moments contributing in a 16-run first over.
Nerves were rife throughout the team, with the normally-cool Josh Rasu also fluffing his lines in the field, putting down a chance in the third over. Compounded by a Nipiko flick for four next ball, the Sharks passed 40 inside four overs, and the Panthers looked well on the way to hoisting claiming the first Blast title.
For all of the Sharks early dominance, things didn’t go all their way for the rest of the innings. Nipiko and Stephen fell within five balls of each other to Kenny Tari and Rasu respectively, and Wolford Kalworai departed soon after. The Sharks scored just one boundary in almost a four-over stretch, though the efforts of Jamal Vira to lift the score to 85 meant the game hung on a knife edge.
Higher scores had certainly been chased down earlier in the Blast, though the old adage of runs on the board in a final proved to ring true. After Lazaro Carlot fell in the first over, Rasu also departed, hitting a bulleted drive down the throat of Bethan Moli at long-on. Wesley Viraliliu ruined a potential Nipiko wicket-maiden by blasting one over the head of Moli on the rope, though partner Jarryd Allan was completely outfoxed at the other end, falling to Apolinaire Stephen with a delivery that can only be described as an even slower slower ball.
Viraliliu was now almost on a solo mission, though after Niko Unavalu teamed up with Nipiko’s safe hands to dismiss him, only one ending looked possible. Nipiko’s 70-metre throw over the stumps caught Simpson Obed well out of his ground to seal the deal, with the Panthers falling well short of mounting a challenge.