But that didn’t last long as the dominant Sky Pacific Town put on an impressive performance to successfully defend the title on Saturday.
Country, who were gunning to win the series title for the first time, were unable to withstand the pressure from the visitors, who were brilliant in every facet of the game to outclass the defiant hosts.
Country won the opening leg before Town bounced back to take the series into the decider which was initially planned to be held three weeks ago, but postponed due to bad weather.
Earlier in the day, the Country women’s team completed a whitewash after beating Town in the final leg by a massive 86 runs.
The win must have served a major morale booster for the men’s side which at least won the toss and elected to field first.
Town opened their inning with big hitters Nooroto Williams and Patia Ataera who made a shaky start.
Williams was out for a duck while Ataera managed only 10 runs before losing his wicket.
Park Daniel and Davis Teinaki also didn’t last long after hitting 25 and 18 runs, respectively.
But all-rounder Kunta Ritawa, who survived some missed catches, stabilised Town’s run count after scoring a massive 80 runs, including six sixes.
Daniel Vailoa, skipper Wayken Punga and Ripa Tama added a few runs to their tally as Town ended the inning with 201 for seven.
Country could have got them out earlier, if not for the unlucky five missed catches.
Country headed into the second inning with high hopes, but these soon faded after a superb bowling effort from Town.
Coach Vane Tangimetua Sr and veteran Ray Roumanu made an impressive start to the team’s run chase, but a controversial decision which led to the latter’s dismissal on 13 runs disrupted their rhythm.
Skipper and big hitter Osolai Akai was out on a duck followed by three other Country batsmen who also went without scoring, denting the team’s chance of establishing their run chase.
Country was eventually all out for 88 runs, handing Town a big 113-run win.
Country skipper Akai was gracious in defeat, hailing Town for putting on a good performance in the win.
He said the side would come back stronger next year.
“We wanted to win this one but it wasn’t our day. We tried hard, but Town was a better team today,” Akai said.
“We will return stronger next year to take the series title away from Town.”
Town skipper Punga said they were thrilled with the win.
“The plan was to defend the title and we did it. We thank Country for giving us a good game and congratulate our players for winning again this year.”
Cook Islands Cricket chief executive officer Davis Teinaki thanked both teams and the sponsors for their support.
Sponsor Grant Walker said they would host a bigger and better series next year.