Canada won the toss and elected to bat, looking to put a big total on the board to achieve their second win of the tournament. Meanwhile, Nigeria was looking for their first win having lost to Jersey in their opening game. This was to be the West Africans’ first cricket under lights.
Canadian duo Rodrigo Thomas and Navneet Dhaliwal came out to face the opening partnership of Isaac Okpe and Chima Akachukwu. Starting off with two consecutive fours off Okpe, Thomas made his intentions of batting big clear from the offing, then struggled to get the ball past long off. Not long after the commentators questioned the curious sight of a long on and long off in the powerplay of a T20, Dhaliwal was caught off Akachukwu, found by Onwuzulike at long off moving round to meet the pickup, making 12 from his 11 balls faced. This brought in Canada’s number 3 Nitesh Kumar, the top-scorer of Canada’s previous outing and Canada’s former captain. For all his prolific batting prowess, Nitesh almost ran himself out the first ball he played, hesitating before taking the run. In the 4th over, Gim created a chance for the man at square leg, who lept up, juggled the ball, but failed to hold on to take Thomas’ wicket.
Unfazed by his partner’s discomfort at the wicket, Nitesh Kumar hit 2 boundaries in the fourth over, one over cover and the other just forward of square leg. At the beginning of the 6th over, Rodrigo Thomas was cleaned bowled by Akachukwu, swinging and missing a full and straight delivery, having scored 18 off 15 balls, failing to live up to the big-hitting promise of the start of his innings. With Canada on 41-2, Nicholas Kirton came in, having recently made his T20 debut against Jersey in their previous match. His cameo was not to last, looking to play down to third man and finding himself taken by Onikoyi keeping off Abioye’s bowling for a modest 9 off 11 balls.
Replacing Kirton in a change to the Canadian batting order was Abraash Khan, former Canadian U19s Captain. Rotating the strike for the next few overs, Khan and Kumar mixed up a boundary each with a series of 1s and 2s. Abraash, having a combination of shots, timing and strength, pushed hard down the legside and ran for two, only for the return throw to come in quick and hard, mis-taken by the keeper who hit the stumps before receiving the ball, giving Khan a reprieve. Said reprieve did not last as long as Abraash would have liked – on the penultimate ball of the 13th over, Abraaash failed to get the full face of the bat on a big hit, taken safely at long-off. Having made 16 off 19 in contrast to his usual strike rate, the pitch appeared to have a slow nature, difficult to score on for anyone not named Nitesh Kumar.
Kumar was undeterred by the steady rotation of partners, moving along the strike with a mixture of singles, 2s, and even the elusive 3s. Now batting with Ravinderpal Singh who recently broke Ricky Ponting’s record for highest score on T20i debut, Kumar looked visibly tired in the Abu Dhabi climate, disparate from Toronto – Kumar mistimed a shot to cover, who dropped the catch, giving Nitesh another lease. Moments later, Ravi Singh repeated Kumar’s miscued shot, called and taken by the bowler Okpe. Ravi departed having scored 3 off 6 balls.
With just 5 overs remaining to register a comfortable score, bowling all-rounder Saad bin Zafar came in to bat, heaving two consecutive boundaries off the first balls he faced – the first was driven to the fence, and the second was pulled to backward square. Adding just 3 more runs to the scorecard, bin Zafar missed a full and straight ball, thudding low into his front pad. Bin Zafar was dismissed lbw by Ajekun, having scored 11 off 6 balls. With 3.5 overs remaining and 112 runs on the board, and a pitch that was visibly difficult to get going on, Canadian wicketkeeper Hamza Tariq came in to bat, joining Nitesh standing on 43(31). The pair accelerated their efforts with Hamza playing himself in over the course of a few balls, only for Kumar to hit a six followed by a four. Rallying to his partner’s aid, Hamza Tariq hit the biggest six of the day over cow corner, following it up with one over midwicket and another over the cover boundary before looking to go big on the final ball of the innings only for Onwuzulike to take a juggling catch at long on off Abioye’s bowling, setting a target of 160. Tariq finished on 33(16), proving it an auspicious day for associate cricketers named Hamza. Nitesh Kumar top scored with 57*(36), meanwhile Nigeria, save for a few fumbles in the field, looked an organized, positive unit who notably did not concede any extras, rewarding their diligent bowling.
With Nigeria chasing a total generated with late-order big-hitting, it was imperative for opening batsman Daniel Ajekun and Leke Oyede to get off to a good start against Canada’s pace duo of Jeremy Gordon and Dillon Heyliger. The task looked to be a struggle from the off, with Gordon mixing up late 80s pace with slower deliveries, serving up an over of five dot balls. With Heylinger bowling from the other end, Oyede found himself affected by dot ball pressure, with the ball navigating Oyede’s edge and sailing it to Rodrigo Thomas at third man. Two balls later, Heylinger dismissed Daniel Ajekun with a mistimed skier taken comfortably by Ravi Singh. With both openers falling with just 2 runs on the board, Canada’s pace duo had gotten the start the side required. With the left arm/right arm combination of offies Saad bin Zafar, Nikhil Dutta and Nitesh Kumar, bowling to huge boundaries in Abu Dhabi, Sulaimon Runsewe and Chimezie Onwuzulike were able to rotate the strike, scoring valuable 2s and 3s where possible until the 10th over when bin Zafar struck. With Runsewe slicing the ball to point, Dhaliwal made no mistake and dismissed the batsman for 27 off 27 balls, ending the 57 run third wicket stand. In the next over, the batsman looked for a tight single, with Kumar returning a throw to Hamza Tariq to run out the captain Onikoyi for a paltry 0 off the 2 balls he’d faced.
At 76/4 from 12 overs, a steady stream of wickets followed. First skipper Dhaliwal removed Onwuzulike’s leg stump, ending his 39 run innings from 31 balls, followed by bin Zafar doing the same to Isaac Okpe. Okpe managed 5 runs off 9 balls. The next over saw Nikhil Dutta get into the action, inducing Adedeji to chop on for 3 from 5. With 75 runs needed from 34 balls and only 3 wickets remaining, the Nigerian cause looked in need of a miracle that was not to come. With the required run rate jumping every over, Nigeria found themselves needing 53 off the final over. Sylvester Okpe edged a ball from Heyliger through to Hamza Tariq, ending his 12 run innings. Canada won by a massive 50 run margin. With just three of Nigeria’s batsmen registering double-digit scores, Nigeria never recovered from their 2-2 position despite an excellent third wicket stand.
Nitesh Kumar with his second 50+ score of the tournament, that too at a strike rate of 158 earned his second Player of the Match. Hamza Tariq with a boundary-laden cameo of 33 runs at a strike rate of 206 was invaluable.
Dillon Heyliger with 3-16 from his 4 overs. Saad bin Zafar with 2-25 during the tricky period of the game. Although Jeremy Gordon went wicketless for 12 runs from 4 overs, his probing bowling attenuated the batting line up.
Sulaimon Runsewe with 37 runs, partnered by Chimezie Onwuzulike with 39 runs for a vital third wicket stand after a tough start for Nigeria. Akachukwu registered Nigeria’s best bowling figures with 2-34 from his 4 overs. Abioye bowled only 3, but took 2 wickets for 26.
Canada goes into their third match of the tournament against Ireland undefeated while Nigeria will face Oman. Both matches will be on Wednesday, with Canada vs Ireland being televised.