Sierra Leone Youth Series goes down to wire as youngsters aim up against U19s

Isaac Lockett reports on the one-day youth series between Sierra Leone's U19 and U17 squads.

Sierra Leone U19 captain George Edwawrd Ngegba and Sierra Leone U17 captain Ibrahim Sheik Kamara pose with one of the series officials prior to the start of play (Photo: Sierra Leone Cricket Association)

The four-match Sierra Leone Youth Series between the nation’s U-19 and U-17 boys squads is now complete. Following our preview, Emerging Cricket offers an exclusive tournament round-up of a tournament which went down to the wire.

Sierra U19's team photo prior to the 2020 youth Series
Sierra Leone’s U19 team photo prior to the 2020 youth Series (photo: Cricket Sierra Leone)

Match 1 

The U-17s batted first and quickly found themselves firmly on the back foot. U-19 opening bowler Samuel Conteh took three early wickets without conceding a run in four probing overs. Along with Conteh’s impressive opening spell, John Lassayo (2-11) and Ngegba (1-10) also finished with strong bowling figures. Wickets continued to fall at an alarming rate and after 15 overs, the U-17s were reeling at 30-8. A partnership between George Sesay (15) and Mohamed Lamin Kamara (17*) took the team score over 50. The last wicket fell with the score on 77 meaning that U-19 team required 78 to win from 50 overs. 

The impressive Conteh (14) and national wicket-keeper John Bangura (19) helped the older boys get off to a good start. However, those two batsmen were the only two to make double figures as Daniel Lassayo (4-8), and Raymond Coker (3-14) turned the tide. Eventually, the U-19 side were bowled out for 65 giving the U-17s a 13-run win and a 1-0 lead in the series.

Match 2

Match 2 began with the U19s aiming to set a competitive total for the U17’s to chase, however, opening bowlers George Sesay (2-16) and Mohamed Kamara once again ensured that the U-19s were unable to build any momentum with the bat. Kamara was the pick of the bowlers, finishing with 6-13. Edmond Ernest, however, provided some lower order batting resistance scoring 13 from 28 balls. A partnership with last man James Kargbo (5*) took the U-19s to 49. 

Sierra Leone U-19 captain George Edwawrd Ngegba and Sierra Leone U-17 captain Ibrahim Sheik Kamara pose with a series official prior to the start of play (Photo: Sierra Leone Cricket Association)

The batting struggles continued, and the U-17s got off to a horrible start in their chase, struggling at 18-5. Conteh (3-13) and Ngegba (3-12) once again impressed with the ball. However, Lamin Kamara (13*) showed some resistance and an ability to preoccupy the crease during his innings which helped the U-17s win the second match of the series. Kamara’s innings lasted 33 balls and along with Samuel Humper (5), George Sesay (8) and U-17 captain Ibrahim Sheik Kamara (2) helped the U-17s bat time and chase down their target in 19.5 overs. For the U-19s the next two matches were must-win games to avoid a series defeat. 

Match 3

The U-19s once again batted first. However, unlike previous matches, the opening pair of John Bangura and Eric Musa Turay set a solid platform for the team and in doing so registered the first 50-run partnership of the series. Bangura and Turay put on 73 for the first wicket before the former was bowled by the impressive Raymond Coker for 27. However, this wicket was unable to break the momentum as Turay, and Samuel Conteh (34) then built a 71-run partnership, during which Turay brought up the event’s first half-century.

Turay scored 57 off 80 balls in an innings punctuated by positive running between the wickets and five boundaries. Following the dismissal of Turay, the U-17s picked up two quick wickets which appeared to shift the momentum back to the bowling side. However, Edmond Ernest prevented the U-19s from losing all momentum as he and Conteh built a 20 run partnership. Ernest came to the crease after 28.4 overs and batted for the rest of the 50 overs as he once again showed his ability to bat time. Ernest finished on 65* from 70 balls as he and Chernor Bah (33 off 14) executed a flurry of big hits in the final overs of the U-19s’ innings. The U-19s finished on an impressive 302-9 from their 50 overs.

Despite the large total, Mohamed Kamara (10-0-44-1), Raymond Coker (10-0-49-1), George Sesay (10-0-53-2) and Karim Kamara (4-0-16-2) all performed well with the ball. Potentially the biggest worry for the U-17s bowling attack was not the large total but the 69 extras conceded over the course of the innings. 

The U-19 team in a huddle (Photo: Cricket Sierra Leone)

Chasing 303 runs, the U-17 batsmen were, unfortunately, unable to build any momentum. The U-19 bowling attack was able to pick up wickets at regular intervals with impressive performances from Charles Kargbo (5-1-14-1), George Edward Ngegba (3.4-1-9-4) and Edmond Ernest (5-2-12-0). Despite the U-17 team being bowled out for 102 and losing by 200 runs, Mohamed Kamara (28) was impressive with the bat top-scoring for the team. The result took the series to 2-1 meaning that the U-19s needed to win the last game to avoid an embarrassing series defeat against their younger counterparts.

Match 4

The final match started with the U-17s taking early wickets with the ball. Daniel Lassayo and George Sesay combined for a run-out, and Raymond Coker (6.5-0-26-1), Mohamed Kamara (7-1-26-5) and D.Lassayo (5-0-18-1) all picked up early wickets.

National team captain George Edward Ngegba came to the crease. He appeared more settled than in the previous three games and was able to find his scoring form. Edmond Ernest (13) and Ngegba shared a 43 run partnership taking the score from 51-4 to 94-5 before Ernest was dismissed. However, Ngegba continued his onslaught, bringing up his first half-century of the series with 53 coming off 56 balls. Following the dismissal of the captain, the U-17s were once again able to build some momentum. The claimed the last few wickets, bowling out the U-19s for 131. 

The series was on a knife edge as the U-19s needed to defend 131 avoid overall defeat. They started their bowling innings on the front foot as John Lassayo (6-0-23-4) and Ngegba (8-1-20-4) shared eight wickets between them. However, late order runs from George Sesay (20), D.Lassayo (17) and Samuel Humper (17*) made the game closer than the U-19s would have liked. Alas, the U17s were eventually bowled out for 102 and the U19s 29-run win meant that the series was tied 2-2. 

Sierra Leone’s U-17 team photo (Photo: Sierra Leone Cricket Association)

Players of the Sierra Leone Youth Series 

In a series that was largely dominated by the bowlers, U19s player Edmond Ernest finished the top run-scorer. With a high score of 65* along with vital lower-order contributions, Ernest finished with a tally of 91 runs at an average of 30.33. 

Sierra Leone’s U19 and senior captain George Edward Ngegba finished as the series top wicket-taker with 12 wickets at an average of 4.25 and an economy of 2.27. Meanwhile, U-17s player Mohamed Kamara was the other player to break into double figures finishing with 10 wickets with an impressive average of 9.8. 

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