By LAURA MACINTOSH
Fiji’s U19s have been gallant in defeat in their final pool match of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) East-Asia Pacific region, going down to Vanuatu by three wickets.
Captain Jack Smith once again proved to be a lucky charm with the toss, winning it and choosing to bat.
Fiji were in trouble early, with Vanuatu captain Nalin Nipiko (4-26) and opening bowler Worek Tastuki (3-18) ripping through the top order, and when the captain’s wicket fell, Fiji were in trouble at 5-9 in the seventh over.
Then in came Metuisela Beitaki, who piled on 28 runs off 30 balls, with the help of a partnership with Saimoni Tuitoga (16 off 15).
In the end Fiji were all out for 85 runs in 24.1 overs, a stunning fight back against the experienced Vanuatu bowling attack.
Fiji had seemingly learnt their lesson from yesterday’s defeat, proving much tighter with the ball and in the field. Vanuatu opener Joshua Rasu was run out for seven, and then his companion Ronal Tari was ousted for 4 thanks to a spectacular catch off his own bowling by Tuitoga (2-17).
When Smith got the wicket of his counterpart Nipiko for 19 – thanks to another spectacular catch from Tuitoga, juggling it with his foot to eventually hold onto it with his hand – Fiji could feel they were definitely still in the hunt, despite Tuitoga’s brilliance in the field costing him a game-ending injury.
There was more spectacular fielding to come from Fiji, with first-gamer Tuinamoli Makutu Koroi, catching Kerrod Loughman for 16, on a one-handed dive he replicated from the practice match against Vanuatu held earlier in the week.
However victory was just out for reach for Fiji, with Callum Blake hitting the winning run for Vanuatu in the 27th over.
Sixteen-year-old Cakacaka Tikoisuva finished with figures of 2-13 off three overs, and was named second best on ground, sandwiched between the pair of Vanuatu opening bowlers, Nipiko and Tastuki.
Fiji U19 coach Joe Rika, was once again looking at the positives of the match, and was pleased with his side’s continual improvement in their game throughout the tournament. He particularly praised his team’s fight back with the bat against Vanuatu’s considerably more experienced bowling attack.
Tomorrow Fiji will face Samoa in a Twenty20 match playoff for third place. Vanuatu will play Papua New Guinea, who have just arrived from Darwin after contesting a Quad Series with the Australia, New Zealand and India U19 sides, in the final.