Lautoka stars on debut in Fiji's Elite Player League
Lautoka Voyagers marked their Fiji Elite Player League debut in style by beating defending champions Suva Capitals by 127 runs in Albert Park last week.
A superb partnership of 127 by Sekove Ravoka and Waisake Tukaha saw the Voyagers post an impressive 266 for 8 from their 50 overs against a Capitals' attack that included two Fiji Blues representatives. Their partnership featured both quick singles and an ability to punish the bad ball with a series of crisp drives and would have impressed the Fiji selectors who were at the ground.
Their partnership was finally broken in the 29th over with the score at 145 for 2. Captain Jo Dabea then played a wonderful cameo with a quick-fire 50 that eventually took the score to 266, leaving the Capitals a massive total to chase. Medium pacer Peni Dakaiwas was the pick of the Capitals' attack taking 3 for 36, while Viliame Yabaki gave good support, claiming 3 for 43.
In reply, Capitals' openers Tomasi Nawaciono and Viliame Yabaki batted with intent, regularly finding the boundary to build a solid platform and at 96 for 2 in the 15th over, they looked poised to chase down the large target. Instead, occasional offspinner Joji Bulabalavu halted the Capitals' momentum, snaring four quick wickets. When Tukaha grabbed two more Capitals were reeling at 121 for 6 and the focus turned to survival. None of the late order was able to rally and Suva were bowled out for 139.
In the other game, Western Bulldogs overcame their own batting woes to eventually defeat Sigatoka Dunes with relative ease by five wickets. Sigatoka, troubled by Bulldogs paceman, Kit Tavo, lacked someone capable of capitalising on a good start and were bowled out for 114.
Tavo, returning to representative cricket for the first time in two years, took two early wickets in a devastating spell to finish with 3 for 10 from 7.2 overs. Symptomatic of the Dunes' batting was the fact Iniasi Cakacaka and Gaurang Patel were their top-scorers with 15. Manase Ravula, just back from a tour with the Under-17 national side also bowled well, finishing with 4 for 29 from nine overs.
What appeared to be a straightforward task for the Bulldogs was complicated by three quick wickets from Tukana Tavo who had the Westerners in early trouble at 18 for 2. With the match in the balance Maciu Gauna and Kiti Tavo came together and quickly moved the score to 67 for 4 by lunch through a combination of smart running and a flurry of boundaries.
But when Tahrinda Premasiri trapped Gauna in front for 34 just after the lunch break the match swung further in the favour of the Dunes, as the Bulldogs slumped to 76 for 5. However, some lusty hitting from Kiti Tavo, including three big sixes was enough to see the Bulldogs home with five wickets to spare. Tavo's unbeaten 57 combined with his impressive bowling spell earned man of the match honours.
Next week, as befitting a national league, the two matches will be played outside Suva: the Western Bulldogs play the Suva Capitals at Namaka Public School, Nadi, while the Sigatoka Dunes take on the Lau Voyagers at Central College, Lautoka.
Sahil Dutta is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo