Captain of the Nigeria U19 Cricket team Sylvester Okpe has praised Man of the Match Ifeanyichukwu Uboh whose 5-wicket haul against Japan was pivotal in the Junior Yellow Greens bagging a first-ever victory in ICC U19 Cricket World Cup history.
The victory at the Ibbies Oval, Potchefstroom, in what was their final game of the tournament meant Nigeria finished in 15th place, one place higher than their vanquished opponents who ended the tournament as the bottom-placed team.
Having lost all five of their games leading up to their final placement match, the victory was especially special for the Junior Yellow Greens who were making their debut at the tournament and they depart South Africa with a crowning achievement having endured several tough lessons.
“We feel very excited. Despite the fact it’s our first appearance in the world cup, we ended it up with a win. So we’re very happy,” a beaming Okpe said after the game.
The Junior Yellow Greens had tried several combinations in a vain attempt to secure a win in their previous matches and for their last game in South Africa, Uboh who had been overlooked for the team’s first two matches against Australia and the West Indies got the nod and didn’t disappoint.
“We know we just have to try everyone and to see those who perform very well under pressure, and he was able to put up his hand,” Okpe said about Uboh’s performance. “So, we said okay, today he just has to try and put up his hand again and he did fantastically well and got five wickets. So it was a good one for him.”
Okpe identified a better performance at batting, previously their Achilles heel in the tournament, as instrumental to the victory against Japan.
“Actually our batting wasn’t really good, it didn’t come to the party really well this tournament,” Okpe explained.
“I think we did better with the batting in today’s game. So it’s a really big achievement because, at the beginning of the tournament, we weren’t having a great catch with the bat. And our bowling has always tried and spoken more for us. I think we’ve had some good time with the fielding.”
Having created history with Nigeria first by leading the team to qualify for a first-ever global event and recording a first-ever victory at this level, what does the future hold for the prodigiously talented Okpe who also doubles as the vice-captain of the senior national side?
“Well, it’s to play for the country for as long as I can, to be able to transfer the experience that I’ve had in the world cup and support as much as I can for the national team.”