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Cooks women take fifth place at Pacific Cup

Wednesday 24 January 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Cricket, Sports

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Cooks women take fifth place at Pacific Cup
Cook Islands National Women’s Cricket team. SUPPLIED /24012303 / 24012304 / 24012305 / 24012306

Cook Islands National Women’s Cricket team has taken fifth place after defeating Fiji at the 2024 SouthSeas Pacific Cup International Women’s Tournament in Auckland.

Cricket association’s president Grant Walker said the tournament wrapped up on Sunday with the national side being the youngest team by far. 

The annual competition included Samoa, Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji, and the new addition Aotearoa Māori, competing at Llyod Elsmore Park in Auckland for the Southseas Healthcare Cup.

Walker said the team was formed at the Auckland University complex in the week prior to the Cup, as Head Coach Tomakanute Ritiawa set his side with some last-minute additions due to some unfortunate late withdrawals, due to injury woes. 

Sonnia Vaia, an opening bowler due to an injury and the wicket keeper was unavailable due a family matter. 

He said the team spirit continued throughout the tour as Vaia offered to wicket keep despite no prior experience, and the coach showed his acumen as the team worked together for two wins in their warm up games, and they moved as a unit into the Cup accommodation provided by New Zealand Cricket (NZC) on January 15.

“We started several players aged 15-20 with our standouts Sofia Samuels at 15 and Zamera Ikiua at 16 respectively.”

A day of training followed with the ladies set to go on January 17 with two matches against Samoa and Fiji. 

The side opened with an inspired effort that fell a single run short 109-108 on the final ball bowled to them and they almost upset a revitalised Samoan side that featured several of their professional and club level players that were lacking in September last year. 

“This near victory showed our heart and resilience, and our vice-captain 16-year-old Zamera Ikiua showed both courage and leadership to bat through the full 20 overs in a scorching heat. 

“She finished with 43 off 46 balls, while 15-year-old Sofia Samuels snagged 3 wickets in her four overs for only 19 runs conceded. 

“The captain Tetiare Mataora claimed 2 wickets as well, and Sonnia Vaia in her debut as a wicket keeper took her first international stumping and nearly a second. 

“Clearly these young women belonged at the Cup,” he said.

In the match against Fiji, Cooks showed their talent and skill in a comprehensive 9 wicket victory 70-69 in a mere 8.2 overs. 

“Our Kukis started strong with an impressive display of bowling and fielding, holding Fiji to a spindly 69 runs in 14 overs.  Samuels starred again with 2/9 in 2 overs, and our hero Zamera not only bowled an amazing 2 overs for a single run and 2 wickets, but then led a fast chase to victory with 41 off 32 to lead the Cup batting lists.”

She was awarded the player of the round 2 matches and it was the ladies first win.

However, the joy would be short lived as the next day brought eventual champions Papua New Guinea as their opposition.

Set to play the world #12 team, composed entirely of professional contract players, Cook Islands brave amateurs showed some stage fright and started with a sluggish performance. 

Walker said bowling extras and adding midfields led to an easy day for PNG. 

“Our girls carried their ill-discipline into a desultory chase and finished the loss 178-50.  It was clear the tournament had a major divide between the top three squads of pros and club players, and the three mostly amateur teams.  This realisation would be confirmed by the tournament’s end and the final table.”

Two more losses against the iron of the competition followed, with the team falling to the New Zealand Māori and then Vanuatu side. 

“Both games had a few bright moments of individual performance, but it was clear that we have work to do in skills, fitness, and teamwork.”

Finishing the round play at 1-4 sent the team to the 5th place final against winless Fiji.  They showed that they had cricket skills and talent as once again the Kukis smashed the Fijian side winning by 9 wickets for the 2nd time. 

Sofia Samuels bowled an amazing 4 overs for 2 runs, 2 maidens, and 2 wickets, one of the tournament best lines, Walker said. 

Zamera Ikiua led the attack again, with a steady but sure 29 from 46 in partnership with Tailor Miaka’s 28 from 33. 

Laupa Vila came on to take the team home for their tournament sealing win with 11 from 8, as they chased down 80 on the first ball of the 15th over.

Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea upset the New Zealand Maori side in the finals to retain the Cup.