It was always going to be a tall order for Nigeria at their first T20 World Cup Qualifier, while theirs is truly an emerging story–their U19s are heading to the World Cup next year–it was hard not to watch with the trepidation of a concerned family member when over number two, bowled by Vincent Adewoye, went for 22.
Deliveries were hit to parts of the outfield where you would normally see a powerplay outfielder, but today, vacant pastures greener than the striking Nigeria playing kit greeted all too many strikes from Jersey’s top order early on.
There were No balls for foot faults and balls’ height, in fact opening bowler Isaac Okpe, when bowling the 20th over was removed from the attack after bowling a second high full toss (a ludicrous rule at this level when there is clearly no malice). There were misfields, dropped catches – including one that went through Leke Oyede’s hands after he lost a floater in the sun that hit the 33-year-old all-rounder in the face.
But, there were smiles, flashes of brilliance, natural athleticism and a lot of talent out there in yellow and green. When they strayed though, the well-drilled Jersey side didn’t take a backward step.
Jonty Jenner was unbeaten on 57 from his 42 deliveries and Nick Greenwood fell near the end of the innings for 43 from 28.
Hong Kong-born Ben Stevens played some deft reverse clip-sweep from the pacers during his 25 but he swept one time too many, this time to the spin of Daniel Ajekun and was trapped in front. Ajekun had already run to mid on with his arms out, celebrating his wicket by the time the finger went up
The Yellow Greens’ chase started briskly enough, but as soon as Daniel Ajekun played for spin from left armer Elliot Miles’ first ball and saw his off stump displaced, the momentum of the innings never recovered.
Leke Oyede did make 39 opening the batting, but it came from 44 balls. Nigeria really needed the veteran to be scoring at a better rate thereby alleviating the pressure on newcomers at the other end to be hitting boundaries from ball one.
Staying legside of the ball perhaps too often, Nigeria’s batters will benefit from developing their repertoire to include scoring options all around the field.
They will learn a lot from watching the array of sweeps and other leg side side shots Jersey played, and one can only hope that as the lessons get harder with the higher ranked teams they play, the Yellow Greens will take it all in their stride as a learning experience, rather than being disheartened if they’re on the wrong end of more one sided matches.
In the end, Nigeria fell 69 runs short. Elliot Miles and Dominic Blampied took two, Jake Dunford was uber-sharp behind the stumps, and Jersey celebrated another good start at a global qualifier.
In 2015 they beat Hong Kong and Nepal in the group only to lose to PNG, USA, Namibia and Ireland to finish sixth. Only time will tell if they can better that performance from four years ago to take the largest of the Channel Islands to a World Cup.