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Yovich fireworks leaves Cooks breathless

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Northland legend and former Northern Knight Joseph Yovich showed he still has what it takes when he delivered a Twenty20 batting master class against the Cook Islands’ national team in the Cook Islands’ version of the IPL.

Captain of New Zealand Croatia, batting at three Yovich powered his way to two breathtaking T20 centuries to ensure his unbeaten New Zealanders won the inaugural CIPL tournament in Rarotonga.

Sending his lofted straight drives into the surrounding village, Yovich’s biggest T20 hundred came from only 36 balls. He surged to 125 from 46 deliveries, supported by an unbeaten 83 from young Taranaki rep Temapare Hodson as New Zealand Croatia powered to 289-5 in their 20 in their first encounter with the Cook Islands national men’s team. It proved too imposing a chase for the home side who mustered 159-6 in reply.

Earlier in the week, Yovich had lodged his opening century off just 33 balls - faster than longtime teammate Scott Styris’s history-making 37-ball effort for Sussex, when the side met Cook Islands domestic league champions Pukapuka in the CIPL opener.

Set a target of 261, Pukapuka had got off to a flying start thanks to a hard-hitting 62 from local star Patiia Ataela, before four Northlanders combined to clamp down and stop the Pukapukan charge at 182-8.

Longtime Northland rep Darron Goodwin’s 3-37 led the way, supported by 2-23 from City’s Adrian Smith-Hodgson, 1-35 from his club mate Brad Bennetto and 1-38 from former Kaipara offspinner Matt Vujcich.

The invitational "CIPL" - Cook Islands Premier League - is the brainchild of Cook Islands Cricket CEO and expat Kiwi Alister Stevic, who in the space of four years has taken Cook Islands Cricket from an ICC backwater to one of the fastest-growing cricket communities in the ICC East Asia-Pacific conference.

Said Yovich, "The fantastic work that Stevic has done there isn’t as well known outside the Cooks as it should be. Four years ago, women barely played cricket in the Cooks - he built up a women’s club competition from scratch, coaching from scratch for girls who had never even seen a game of cricket, sponsorship to make it all happen from scratch.

"This year, the AERO women’s national team went to the EAP ICC Trophy tournament in Japan, took their first win and, but for an incorrect umpiring call, would have been into the semifinals with the much more experienced and well-funded teams.

"They had three batters in the individual top 15, four bowlers in the top 30 of the 90 international women at the tournament and the most stampings of the six teams. We play against them and we have to really watch them in the field because they are such natural athletes and fearless fielders.

"The Cook Islands’ men’s team is right behind them and we were impressed that the men also have made visible strides in their technique and overall competitiveness since we first played them in 2013.

"Northern Districts Cricket has been proactive for many years in fostering Cook Islands Cricket with training gear and programmes - that was how I first formed a connection with the Cooks, on a visit with the Knights; but when it comes down to it, it’s people who make the difference and Stevic has been utterly tireless in pulling it all together on the ground."

New Zealand Croatia will play their first fixture in Whangarei this summer, in February. Meantime the "Croatian Sensations" are already gearing up for their annual T20 clash with arch rivals Northern Maori at Smallbone Park, Rotorua, on November 23. The unique club comprises New Zealanders of Croatian heritage with a strong player base in Northland, Auckland and Waikato.

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