Nigeria’s debut performance at the T20 World Cup qualifier in UAE may not excite cricket fans in the country after losing all six matches in group B, but it is considered a great experience for the ‘Yellow Greens’.
Zimbabwe, an ICC full member secured a slot automatically for the World Cup qualifier, but her suspension by the ICC paved way for the Nigerian side that finished third place behind Kenya and eventual winners Namibia in the Africa Regional Finals in July. The Yellow Greens, however came into the World Cup qualifiers as underdogs, the lowest ranked among 16 other teams and with a relatively young squad with lots of excitement.
Prior to the tournament, the Yellow Greens were engaged in intense trainings in Abuja before a two-week tour of Zimbabwe, where they participated in series of friendly matches against Rhinos Cricket Club. Their preparations also climaxed in a victory against Kenya in one of the warm up matches in the UAE.
Tournament proper was always a different scenario as Nigeria struggle to register a decent fight against all the teams played against. The games became tougher and the Yellow Greens could only succumb to superior fire power.
However, Nigeria will not be beaten face down as they also left a positive mark in the tournament by registering the tournament’s record 4th wicket partnership of 89 runs between Adedeji Sesan and Onwuzilike Chimezie. Adedeji Sesan went ahead to create a national record also becoming the first and only Nigerian to score a half century in T-20 international.
“According to the President of the Federation Prof. Yahaya Ukwenya, ‘’It is a win-win situation for Nigeria Cricket “Having our boys play at this level (T20 qualifiers) only means well for the Federation. We wanted to win and qualify for the world cup but that did not happen. However, the experience has been worth it because it gives us a reality check on where we are and also creates an opportunity for us to continue to work and focus on areas where we need to improve.
Nigeria was drawn in group B alongside Jersey, Canada, Oman, Ireland, Hong-Kong and host UAE. Group A’ featured Kenya, Namibia, PNG, Scotland, Netherlands, Bermuda and Singapore
The T-20 World cup qualifiers in UAE would be considered as the highest feat ever attained by the senior National Male team.
Meanwhile, captain of the side Ademola Onikoyi said regardless of the results, there were lots of positives to take back home. “We came into the tournament thinking we had a good chance, we would have loved to go a bit further than this and play good cricket but we had our flaws and didn’t take our chances but non the less, we are ready to work even harder so the next time hopefully when we get back to this stage, we will qualify to the next round.’’
Meanwhile Papua New Guinea and Ireland qualified for the World Cup in Australia 2020 after finishing top in their groups while Oman, UAE and Hong Kong as well as Netherlands, Namibia and Scotland qualified for playoffs, with four of those securing the remaining slot for the ‘Big Dance’ in Australia 2020