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Aho: From Lagos series to Rwanda T20

Aho: From Lagos series to Rwanda T20
November 03
12:51 2021

A lot may have been written and said about the recent six-match bilateral series between Nigeria and Sierra Leone. But, so much would still be said about the stand-out player among the Yellow-Green, Peter Aho. With six wickets in 3.4 overs, one maiden, and five runs, hardly can any player wish for better series. Even the International Cricket Council’s T20i statistics page confirms Aho’s feat as worthy of note.

Interestingly, Aho is the shy bowling star who avoids the limelight. When cornered for an interview, he offers little more than “I thank God”, followed by a flash of a smile. But, there is no doubt about his ability to carry on his shoulders the fame he has acquired lately.

Perhaps, the Covid closure imposed on cricket in Nigeria in 2020 has had a positive effect on Aho. All through the no-show period, he had busied himself thinking a lot about his beloved sport while enduring the huge suspense. As a starry-eyed youngster, he could only wait to explode as soon as the oval reopened for action. And he exploded!

Nigeria itself had had some highs prior to the Covid shutdown. These include the story of grass wickets, Under-19 World Cup qualification, and hiring of a new Chief Coach and High-Performance Manager, Sri Lankan Asanka Gurusinha. Aho’s career has been buoyed by the aforementioned turnaround in Nigeria cricket.

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Somewhat fittingly described as “cricket rat”, Aho is probably the most constant creature any cricket enthusiast would find at the Edo Boys High School (former Adolor College), Benin City since the premises regenerated into a turf wicket, built as experimental to locally transmute from the concrete alternative that had continually put a limit on the expression of local talent on the global stage.

In July 2019, when Nigeria picked the Under-19 World Cup ticket after an unstoppable ride from Division 2 qualifying series, Aho intermittently showed up with some saving performances that in the last game against Sierra Leone, bowling super to save the game and helping Nigeria to qualify. It was 91 for 7 chasing 139 against Sierra Leone (Under-19s) when Aho showed up and delivered a two-wicket victory for the country onward its first-ever World stage appearance in cricket, knocking off Namibia that lurked to benefit from what initially looked like imminent defeat.

The Namibians could well have been bitter with Aho. But the Nigerian star had served his country well. In two years and a few months, Aho has graduated to the senior national team at the behest of Gurusinha who has drawn his plans around a number of the victorious U-19s of 2019.

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So, on Match Day 5 of the recent six-match encounter with Sierra Leone on October 24, a match that should have been an easy coast for the Yellow-Green, they left their batting low at 94 and needed to pin the visitors down with their bowling prowess to set a win. Suddenly, Aho showed up again with pinpoint instinct!

His ravaging of the Sierra Leonean wickets has now placed him on the top spot of the ICC’s best bowling figures in an inning, a ranking that has no Nigerian on it before now, and has earned him a spot among the greats of the sport. The spot has a link with ambition; an ambition to ply his trade in the Indian Premier League (IPL) in no distant future. He says it is the dream of any player in Africa to play in the Indian League. But, he recognises the inherent hard work and is resolved to meet up with the challenge on this way to bigger stardom.

The Bilateral Series is a precursor to the ICC African T20 Qualifying Series in Rwanda in November. Now, Aho holds the ace, same for a number of his mates. But if anything, Nigeria can rely on Aho to help demolish some wickets and drive fear into the opponents.

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