Nigeria’s hope of gaining back-too-back promotion to the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricket League (WCL) Division 4 hangs in the balance after another frustrating outing against regional contenders Tanzania in the Division 5 championship presently holding in Malaysia.
The East Africans registered a 10 run victory over Nigeria in the early hours of Monday Royal Selangor Club, Kuala Lumpur, with the two nations now technically counting on a slim chance of promotion or else, demotion.
Nigeria won the coin toss and chose to field first, but Tanzania were cautious with the speed of the opening duo of Saheed Akolade and Ogunlola on their track to recording five of their first six overs in maidens.
A bowling change resulted to an increase in scoring with Leke Oyede drifting repeatedly outside or onto the pads with surprising pace.
Onwuzulike managed to keep things tighter at the other end, giving the ball lots of flight despite a halting action that sees him release the ball with his head down. He was poorly supported in the field though, as Patwa was dropped off a high ball as deep mid-on ran in.
While Patwa was out lbw shortly after for a well made 37, the fumbles continued with Kiweto dropped at square leg, and several runout opportunities missed. Tanzania reached the second drinks break at 146/3, and began the power-play with the opportunity to build a sizeable total.
While the flow of runs began, the return of the athletic Akolade also began the leak of wickets. Yorkers did for Hamisi Abdallah for 34 and Benson Nyaikini in successive overs, while Ogunlola bowled Kiseto for 47 as he tried to flick the ball on the leg side.
Bejide finally managed to turn around Nigeria’s fielding woes: a direct hit running out Rehmtullah when a mix-up saw him fail to regain his ground at the non-striker’s end; and the catch off the bowling of his captain Adegbola was returned when Adegbola ran backwards to dismiss Amiri in the 47th over off Bejide’s medium pace. When Mapunda was lbw in the following over, Tanzania had collapsed to be all out 216 with only 48.3 overs gone.
There was an eventful start to Nigeria’s innings, with the broad shouldered Nyaikini bowling Olayinka around his legs, but two balls – from either end – staying low and eluding the keeper for 5 wides. The medium pace of Rehmtullah did for both Ofem and Okwudili in the first ten overs; the latter to a brilliant low catch by the keeper Mapunda.
There was an ironic cheer from Onikoyi’s team-mates as he broke his duck for the first time in several innings. With Adegbola, he consolidated the innings, taking the score to 96 when he sent a gentle catch to square leg from a top edge.
Olatunji brought a more aggressive approach to the crease, but he was helped by some terrible Tanzanian fielding: an easy chance put down at deep mid-on, and another ball running between the fieldsman’s legs.
Nigeria’s own woes were not behind them, however, when a mixup left Adegbola stranded at the same end as his partner for 41. Nigeria five down, but needing only five an over from the last 16 overs. Olatunji’s continued risk-taking perhaps fell into Tanzania’s hands. A four over cover was followed by another dropped dolly, this time at square leg, and a six that just barely cleared deep mid-on; but with few singles being taken, the required run-rate refused to budge.
The return of the openers in the 39th over seemed to swing the game Tanzania’s way. Nyaikini bowled Bejide with a slow yorker, and Rehmtullah had Olatunji plumb lbw for 37 trying to slog over mid-wicket: 168-7 off 41.
Some aggressive running by the lower order kept Nigeria in it though. Having put themselves in a position to win it with singles however, they couldn’t resist the unsightly slog. Onwuzulike’s lofted drive gave way to an extravagant celebration dance as Nigeria lost their eighth wicket. With four overs to go, and 24 needed Nigeria made one last charge.
Akolade lofted Nyaikini’s low full toss over cover for four, and sharp running led to an overthrow to take 10 off the over. But with just 11 required off 15 balls Hamisi had Akolade feathering an edge to the keeper; and when on the first ball of the following over Oyede was caught on the rope at deep mid-on, the Tanzanian fieldsmen celebrated with some gusto.
The frustration on the Nigerian faces was self-evident at the presentation, as they’d let an opportunity for a straight shoot-out against Malaysia go with some poor batting. After successive promotions from WCL7 however, to consolidate at WCL5 is still a fine performance. Both sides can, in theory, be either promoted or relegated on the final day, but either scenario will require wins or losses by significant margins.
(Match Report as Provided by Cricket Europe)