A dream spell of bowling from off-spinner Obed Yosef and a fine, mature knock from opener Nalin Nipiko handed Ifira Sharks the first win of their season, with them beating the Bulls by four wickets. The loss effectively means that the Bulls are the only team yet to register a win in the competition.
Brief scores: Ifira Sharks 62/6 off 8.5 overs (Nipiko 31* and Matautaava 2/4) beat MT Bulls 61/6 off 10 overs (Mansale 23 and Yosef 2/2) by 4 wickets
Tsione-Mansale steady the ship after shaky start
After being bowled out for just 35 in their first game of the season against the Panthers, Ifira Sharks needed to bounce back with a strong performance on Saturday, and their quest of doing so began by them calling it right at the toss and opting to bowl first. And boy-oh-boy the move to bowl first turned out to be a dream one as left-arm spinner Obed Yosef struck twice in the first five balls of the match to rock the bulls back on their heels. While Matautaava perished after miscuing one straight to the hands of mid-off, Andrew Mansale, the Bulls’ lone warrior from the previous game, was outfoxed by a shorter, quicker one that skid through. The right-hander was caught behind the wicket and the Bulls were soon teetering at 1/2. Off-spinner Stephane Sandy further strengthened the Sharks’ griphold in the game by dismissing Clement Tommy for 5, three balls after Mansale’s dismissal, and just eight balls into the innings, the likelihood of witnessing yet another sub-par first innings total seemed pretty high.
However, albeit neither counterpunching nor aggressive, a fine 47-run wicket partnership between Philip Tsione and Eddie Mansale then ensued for the fourth wicket, with the duo batting out 40 balls in total. Between the two, in their partnership, Tsione and Mansale hit seven boundaries to keep the Sharks bowlers in check, but tragedy struck when they lost Mansale on the final ball of the 8th over - just when he was well set and ready to explode. The untimely dismissal of Mansale proved detrimental to the Bulls’ ambitions of finishing on a high as in the last two overs yielded just 11 runs, with them losing two wickets in the process. Eventually, 61/6 is what they ended up in their quota of 10 overs.
Nalin Nipiko takes Ifira Sharks all the way
3, 5, 0, 1, and 7 were the scores of the Ifira Sharks’ top seven batsmen in their first encounter against Mighty Efate Panthers on Thursday, and heading into this chase, the Blues knew that they could ill-afford such an insouciant performance. For a team low on confidence, a target of 62 could look like 162, but the Sharks, led by the explosive Nalin Nipiko, got off to the perfect start, racing off to 10/0 in the first over, with Nipiko smacking a monstrous six to get things going for the chasing side. But while Nipiko was determined to make amends, William Yamak and Jamal Vira were still in the zone that they were in against the Panthers and the duo departed in the span of eight balls, adding just four runs between them. Much in contrast to the first innings, in the second, it was pace that troubled the batting side early on, as it was pacers Matautaava and Godfrey Mangau who accounted for the first two dismissals. At 16/2, with the equation 46 needed of 42, the game was right in the balance, but the form of Nipiko ignited hope for the Sharks.
All Nipiko needed was some support and much to the delight of the Blues, the right-hander got it in the form of Bethan Moli, who maneuvered the ball to all parts of the field to frustrate the Bulls. Moli stitched a fine 27-run partnership with Nipiko, but he was knocked over by Andrew Mansale in the seventh over, with the Sharks still needing 19 to win off 22 balls. A short, crazy, whirlwind cameo was not really the need of the hour for the Sharks, but they got one from the bat of A Stephen anyway - a four-ball eight which included a humongous six - and his shenanigans meant that the target came down to single digits, with Nipiko still at the crease. And despite losing two more wickets right at the end - that of Unavalu and Laumae - Nipiko ensured that he steered the Sharks home as the Blues reached the target in the 9th over to script their first win of the Vanuatu T10 League.