Mighty Efate Panthers, on Saturday, became the first team to qualify for the final of the Betbarter Vanuatu T10 blast after their 13-run win over Ifira Sharks. The Panthers’ charge was propelled by Wesley Viraliuliu who, after scoring 35 runs with the bat, defended 15 runs off the final over.
Brief scores: ME Panthers 72/4 off 10.0 overs (Viraliuliu 35 and Vira 1/12) beat Ifira Sharks 59/8 off 10.0 overs (Jamal Vira 15 and Obed 2/5) by 13 runs.
Disciplined Sharks restrict Panthers to 72
Sniffing the Panthers’ tendency to crumble whilst defending targets - evident from their first match of the day versus the Bulls - Ifira Sharks won the toss and put the table-toppers into bat, in the hopes of replicating the Bulls. And the very first over of the game followed an eerily similar pattern to that of the first encounter of the day, as Joshua Rasu perished on the fourth ball after tonking one over the head of the fielder at long-off. But unlike the first game, there was going to be no recovery from the bat of Jarryd Allan, who made the long walk back to the dressing room after a misunderstanding with Lazaro Carlot resulted in him being run-out at the keepers’ end. A 30-run stand between Panthers’ MVP Wesley Viraliuliu and Carlot then ensued - with Carlot accounting for just 8 runs in the partnership - but that, too, was cut-short courtesy another tragic run out, this time Carlot being the victim.
After smashing a wide half-volley from Stephen, which was, ironically, a no-ball, straight to short cover, Carlot, batting on 9 off 15 balls and desperate to get a move on, took off in an attempt to steal a quick single, but was found short of his ground by an inch-perfect direct hit from Nalin Nipiko. At 38/3 at just over the half-way mark, things did not look too pretty for the Panthers, but relentless hitting from Viraliuliu kept them going and, along with able support from Obed, the right-hander took the side to 65/3 at the end of the 8th over, setting the platform to unload in the last two overs. However, in what turned out to be one of the more anti-climatic ends in this tournament, the Sharks duo of Nipiko and Vince Vira astonishingly conceded just seven runs off the last two overs, restricting the Panthers to 72 at the end of 10 overs. With 35 runs to his name, Viraliuliu ended the innings as his side’s top scorer.
Experienced Panthers hold nerve to book place in the final
Ifira Sharks entered into their chase of 73 knowing that it was all or nothing for them - victory would mean them going level on points with the Panthers at the top of the table and a defeat would see them slipping to third place. And the Blues encountered the worst outcome possible in the very first over as they lost their highest run-getter and man-in-form Nalin Nipiko on the last ball of the first over, after the right-hander miscued a pull shot off the bowling of Simpson Obed. Nipiko’s dismissal turned out to be a sneak peek of what was set to follow as the Sharks lost their first four wickets for just 21 runs, with Obed, Viraliuliu and Kenny Tari doing the damage for the bowling side. While Bethan Moli departed on his very first ball without troubling the scorers, both Stephen and Kalworai continued their horrid run of form, getting dismissed for single-digit scores.
With the score 28/4 at the half-way mark, with the Sharks needing 45 off the last 5 overs, the onus was on the duo of Jamal Vira and William Yamak to steer the chasing side home. The problem for the Sharks, though, was that none of their batsmen barring Nipiko had a solid run out in the middle all tournament and the inexperience and the rust of the Blues’ batsmen showed under pressure. With the required run rate going through the roof, both Yamak and Vira failed to find the boundaries, leaving the team in a precarious position of having to score 15 off the final over to win the game. That turned out to be a mountain too steep to climb for the Blues, as a near-perfect final over from Viraliuliu meant that Sharks fell 13 runs short of their target. Sharks’ defeat now means that they will lock horns with the Bulls on June 13 in what will be a virtual semi-final.
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