Western Bulldogs Take Top Sport in Fiji's Elite Player League
The Western Bulldogs have placed themselves in the box seat to claim the Elite Player League (EPL) title after a thrilling two-wicket win over Sigatoka Dunes at the Namaka Public School ground on Saturday.
Three players made their debut in what was the best game of the EPL so far. Joe Rika came in after returning from club cricket in Australia, while two members of Nadi’s Under-19 team, Anare Tuidraki and Vakaru Tauyesa, were drafted in after impressive performances during the Under-19 tournament.
Sigatoka batted first and posted a good score of 218 for 8 from their fifty overs.
Sekove Ravoka was the Dunes’ leading light with the bat as he scored a composed 72. Heeding the words of Steve Jenkin, the National Coach who told the players that he wanted more application and fight with the bat, Ravoka played the sort of innings that the pundits had been tipping him to produce at some stage of the EPL.
David Kachor (38) and Sevunivola Baba (21) formed solid partnerships with Ravoka to build a solid total for the Dunes.
Experienced spinner Iniasi Cakacaka was the best of the Bulldogs bowlers claiming 3 for 35, including the prized wicket of Ravoka with a well-flighted delivery that drew Ravoka from the crease only to have the bails whipped off by Tavo Sorovakatini.
Paceman Sakaraia Lomani also claimed 3 for 45 from his ten overs. Set a challenging task the Bulldogs were always going to have to bat well to chase down the target.
Cakacaka and Tavo Sorovakatini opened the batting for the Bulldogs and put on a 61-run partnership in the first twelve overs to get their team off to good start.
Sorovakatini, who had been brutal on anything loose, was eventually dismissed by Lee Waqa for 44. Cakacaka continued the run chase taking the team’s total beyond the 100 mark before he was trapped in front by debutant Anare Tuidraki.
After a few mid-innings stutters, Joe Rika took charge, with 75 still required. Despite injuring a groin muscle during his innings Rika (34 not out) batted on with a runner to get the Bulldogs to their total. Along the way he was helped by Tauyesa, who made 20, and an unbeaten 12 from Lomani, as the Bulldogs reached the target with five overs and two wickets to spare.
The win puts the Bulldogs two points in front the Dunes and Suva Capitals on the league table. Victory next week against the Capitals will clinch the EPL title, while a Capitals win will leave the title open going into the last match on December 19th.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo