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49yo ex-AB makes cricket debut

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Former All Black makes international cricket debut aged 49

Former All Blacks halfback Ofisa Tonu’u has made his international cricket debut for Samoa at the ripe age of 49.

The Wellington-born halfback, who played five of his 10 test matches for Manu Samoa between 1992 and 1993, made his long-awaited debut for his nation of heritage during a rain-delayed first day of competition at the Samoa 2019 XVI Pacific Games at the Faleata Sports Complex in Apia.

Going in to bat first against Papua New Guinea in the tournament opener on July 8, Samoa were bowled out for 84 runs before rain took its toll on proceedings.

Consequently, Papua New Guinea needed just 24 runs thanks to the Duckwoth-Lewis-Stern method, a total which they achieved with nine wickets to spare.

Their second match the next day was much more fortuitous, as the Samoans defeated Vanuatu by two wickets after chasing down their run total of 147 with four balls to spare in the 20-over match.

In that clash, Tonu’u, the side’s wicketkeeper and 10th batsman, scored six runs from seven deliveries.

His international appearances in the cricketing minnows adds to the impressive sporting credentials he established for himself as a rugby player throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.

Ofisa Tonu’u playing cricket for Samoa. (Photo: Pacific Games/Samoa2019)

In addition to playing five tests for Samoa, Tonu’u played five tests for the All Blacks between 1996 and 1998, while he made well over 150 first-class appearances at club and provincial level for the likes of Wellington, Auckland, the Blues, Hurricanes, London Irish and Newport.

Talented in rugby and cricket while growing up, the father of seven told the Samoa2019 website that his “heart was divided” when he was forced to pursue a career in rugby instead of cricket.

Despite having retired from first-class rugby in 2003, Tonu’u’s long-held dream of playing cricket for Samoa was realised after coach Tim Carter came calling following a rule change that made the dual international available for selection.

Under previous eligibility laws, Tonu’u would have had to reside in Samoa for 100 consecutive days to make himself open for selection into the national side for the Pacific Games, something he was unable to do due to business commitments in New Zealand.

However, a tweak of the rules meant that he is able to play cricket for Samoa as he owns a Samoan passport, which was music to the ears of Carter.

“The team had lacked a strong wicket keeper and Ofisa has really strengthened the team by filling this essential role,” he told the Samoa2019 website.

Samoa continue their Pacific Games campaign on Wednesday with a re-match against Papua New Guinea, who lead the competition following a three-wicket win over Vanuatu on Tuesday.

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Former All Black makes international cricket debut aged 49