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3 October 2014
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.
Captaining New Zealand Croatia, 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 courtesy of 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.
23 September 2014
Giving back to ICC affiliate member Cook Islands Cricket is the key impetus for New Zealand Croatia Cricket’s return tour to Rarotonga this month, says team captain Joseph Yovich.
The side, in Rarotonga to play six matches against the national men’s, women’s and leading club sides this week, will also be involved in fostering and developing Cook Islands cricket at all levels through a week of coaching and promotional activities, which the team is conducting at no cost to their hosts.
“Cook Islanders are extremely passionate about cricket and play with a very special spirit. That has been overseen by Cook Islands Cricket CEO Alister Stevic, a tireless New Zealand sports administrator based in Rarotonga,” says Yovich. “After playing against them last year in an intense, exciting week of Twenty20s, we think they have real potential to achieve their goal of improving from their current ranking of eighth in the Pacific to fifth, and we’re here to help them achieve that ambition, which is significant to the level of ICC funding that they will then be eligible to receive.”
The 13-strong New Zealand Croatia squad has four players making their debut for the side, which is comprised of New Zealand cricketers of Croatian descent. One of these, young Suburbs New Lynn star Temapare Hodson, had connections to both countries as the son of former Silver Fern (and New Zealand-based Cook Islander) Joan Hodson, while seam-bowling allrounder Adrian Smith-Hodgson is well known to Northlanders as a City club veteran, and is the brother of Hamilton-based Dominic Smith-Hodgson who debuted for the globe-trotting side last summer in New Zealand.
Northland representative stalwart Darron Goodwin and Suburbs New Lynn premier club star and opening quick Josh Presland are the other invited players making their debut on this tour. Yovich is meanwhile a former top first-class allrounder and New Zealand Sixes representative who represented the Northern Knights for 17 years. The squad also features two Kiwis who have represented Croatia itself, Auckland-based batsman Anton Vujcich and Hamilton and former Thames Valley representative wicketkeeper Anthony Govorko.
The team won its tour opener yesterday against Pukapuka men at the Turangi oval after skipper Yovich led from the front with an outstanding 113 off 39 — his pyrotechnic T20 century coming off just 33 balls. New Zealand Croatia set the locals a handsome target of 261 after finishing on 260-6 in front of an absorbed hometown crowd.
Pukapuka, who had won the right to play New Zealand
Croatia by winning Cook Islands’ national “CIPL” title
(Cook Islands Premier League), had put New Zealand
Croatia on the back foot initially with two early
“Cook Islanders are renowned for their natural
athleticism and dynamic, 100 per cent enthusiastic
fielding,” said Yovich. “That was immediately apparent
in the two early runouts, but we recovered quickly.”
Pukapuka’s top order strokemaker Patiia Ataela gave his side a chance with 62 off 27, but lacked enough support as Goodwin made regular breakthroughs to take 3-37 off his four, supported by 2-23 from Smith-Hodgson and tight, aggressive pace from Presland. The hosts fell short at 182-8. “Patiia hit the biggest six of the day, mind you!” says Yovich — who himself kept the crowd busy retrieving balls from the surrounding village.
New Zealand Croatia, sponsored by Whangarei-based Busck Prestressed Concrete, will also play five fixtures in Auckland, Rotorua, Hamilton and Whangarei this summer against annual opponents including ND’s Northern Maori and the NZCPA Masters XI, comprised of past internationals. The team’s new, distinctive uniforms bring together the silver fern and Croatia’s traditional red and white checkers, facilitated when the club won a generous grant from ANZ Cricket World.
Yovich said it was a privilege for the one hundred per cent amateur club to be back in the Cook Islands after last year’s tour played a significant role in successfully launching the club, its concept of helping develop other sides and setting its own high standards of play. Led by its experienced core of international, professional and District Association players, the team was unbeaten on its maiden tour.
Yovich: “The Cooks’ players have been very pleased to see us back, regardless! It was certainly a memorable welcome for us, 2.00 a.m. at the airport and it felt like everybody involved in Cook Island Cricket was there in person to greet us.”