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Promising Future Awaits Women’s Cricket in Africa

April 24, 2022

Promising Future Awaits Women’s Cricket in Africa 

The adjectives; electrifying, nerve-racking, scintillating, and exhilarating barely describe the events of that afternoon in April.

Seven runs to win. Six balls left and eighteen-year-old Miracle Imimole was handed the ball.

Her debut for the Nigerian team was in 2021 against Rwanda at the Kwibuka tournament in Kigali and now, the teenager was set to face Rwanda’s Giselle Ishimwe, in a dicey last over.

Ishimwe 52(46) had helped propel the East Africans to 111 runs in an innings that included 4 fours and 2 sixes. The confident right-hand batter, who is perceived as a huge threat to the Nigerian side in the game, looked ready to drag the visitors to yet another victory against the hosts, this time, at the Nigeria Women’s T20i Invitational in Lagos. The tension in the stands was palpable. The weight of expectation from the fans was enormous but more so if you are an 18-year-old young lady playing in front of a bumper crowd we imagine.

Miracle, however, stepped up to bowl, conceded a run in the first ball, none in the second, and had Ishimwe run out on the third ball. The home crowd went wild. Nigeria had won by three runs. The excitement and electrifying atmosphere that greeted this victory is one that will come to mind when women’s cricket in Nigeria is spoken of.


The Rivalry

One may wonder why such intensity engulfed that game. The Nigeria/Rwanda Women’s rivalry is one that appears recent but deep. Prior to 2019, the female teams of both nations, despite their engagement in cricket activities, were unranked by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

The first meeting for both sides was a five-match bilateral series in Abuja in January of that year, with a 3-2 victory in favor of the hosts but a return leg in September in Kigali saw Rwanda edging out their visitors with a 3-2 win.

Both teams also met at the 2019 ICC Women's Qualifier Africa in Zimbabwe in May, where Nigeria lost by 37 runs to Rwanda. Their last meeting was in 2021 at the Kwibuka Cricket tournament in Kigali, where Rwanda defeated Nigeria by 6 runs.

So, for the 37th ranked ICC team, who are six places below Rwanda, the group game at the Nigeria Invitational in Lagos was perceived to be a grudge match. Nigeria ended the group stage in top place after the victory against Rwanda – who are runners-up. The outcome meant both teams will slug it out in the final match of the event, to determine the winner of the tournament.

Rwanda triumphed by 57 runs victory against the hosts to win the tournament which began on March 26 and ended on April 3, 2022.


Other Participating Teams

With respect to the other participating teams: Sierra Leone, Ghana, and The Gambia, the Nigeria/Rwanda tie could arguably be regarded as the biggest fixture of the tournament.

The late withdrawal of Cameroon from the competition meant five nations were left to jostle for honors.

The earlier scheduled first match of the tournament was between hosts Nigeria and Sierra Leone, but the late arrival of the 41st ranked ICC team meant they needed a few hours to recover, pushing the Ghana and Rwanda tie ahead—becoming the first-ever meeting for both sides and the first game of the tournament.

Ghana, an unranked ICC team, lost the game by 81 runs and ended the Invitational in fourth place with a win in five matches. Unranked Gambia as well finished the event in bottom place without a win in four matches - a position that made them lose out in the third-place finals match.

Sierra Leone finished third with three victories in five matches while Nigeria was runners-up with four wins in five games as well.


The Tafawa Balewa Square Cricket Oval

The maiden Nigeria Invitational Women’s Cricket Tournament was staged at the age-long Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) Oval in Lagos and it is no surprise that the Nigeria Cricket Federation (NCF) held the tournament there.

The square is significant to Nigeria’s history, as it was said to have been provided to colonial authorities by the erstwhile traditional ruler, Oba Dosunmu, in 1859 and hosted the country’s first Independence Day celebration in 1960, amongst others.

Such is the significance of the game of cricket to the country’s history that Nigeria’s first international Cricket match against the Gold Coast British Colony (now Ghana) in 1904 was at the TBS oval. The oval also hosted the ICC World T20 Africa Qualifier A in 2018, as well as the ACA Africa T20 Cup, the same year.

The ground, widely regarded as the `traditional home of cricket’ was recently renovated from a concrete surface to an ICC standard 10-strip turf wicket in January, with the construction done by the country’s local experts. With its wealth of cricket history, it is great to see the maiden edition of the Women’s Invitational become part of the TBS story.


Fan Engagement

As earlier stated, fans' engagement and participation at the Invitational were incredible. Kids turned out in numbers, many in their school uniforms were at the stands to watch and cheer on teams. A development that Patricia Kambarami, ICC Regional Development Officer for Africa, noticed and said the excitement on the faces of the kids was infectious.

“The fans were wonderful. There are many times when I felt like screaming with the kids. I loved their energy and it was one of the most interesting parts of the tournament”. 

The present administration under Uyi Akpata is well aware of the necessity of fan engagement in the development of the game and Akpata assured that “the game was returning to the grassroots”.


Women’s Cricket: Present and Future 

It’s great to see how much the Nigerian women's team has evolved this past year, owing to the depth of its technical crew, level of competition, facility improvement, the injection of young players into the team, and more. The team’s outing in Lagos impressed Kambarami, who reminisced on the team’s previous performance.

“The women's team has improved tremendously. I watched them in Zimbabwe in 2019 but what I have seen now is impressive and I really must congratulate the NCF for what they have done with the team. It’s such a brilliant job”. 

The ICC official says she looks forward to seeing more African teams push for top slots in the game in the nearest future, with Uyi Akpata, president of the NCF, being optimistic that the country could punch above its weight soon. 

"For us as a country, and as well as the Nort-West Africa region, this is just the beginning."

"It is great to have all Presidents of the five participating teams present in the tournament and we have discussed and will continue to engage on how to improve the game, especially the women’s game in our various countries."

Also, as part of developing the game across Africa, some of our local experts were in Ghana to help construct turf wicket at the famous Achimota Cricket oval in Accra, ahead of 2023 All Africa Games.

“So, I would say that we are intentional about improving the game and I can’t wait to see what the next years hold for us,” Akpata added. 

With the memory of the just concluded Nigeria Invitational in Lagos and the announcement by Akpata that no fewer than eight countries would feature in the next edition, fans cannot but be enthusiastic about what the future holds for women in Nigeria and Africa at large.



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