By Innocent Ndawula
ICC WCL DIVISION III IN MUSCAT, OMAN
DAY ONE SUMMARY
Kenya 164 all out in 49.2 overs
Oman 166/5 in 42.5 overs
Oman won by 5 wickets (with 43 balls remaining)
Man of Match: Kaleemullah of Oman (4 for 26 in 10 overs including 4 maidens)
Denmark 165 all out in 44.2 overs
Uganda 167/5 in 36.2 overs
Uganda won by 5 wickets (with 82 balls remaining)
Man of Match: Arnold Otwani (88 runs off 86 balls (15 fours) & 4 catches)
USA vs. Uganda, OC Turf 1
Oman vs. Singapore, OC Turf 2
*All matches start at 8.30am Ugandan time.
POINTS TABLE - AFTER ROUND ONE
*T denotes Tied Matches
* NRR denotes Net Run Rate
Nothing does beat sport - the world over. The emotions, passion, pressure and fairy-tales that come along the way. Nothing, nothing and nothing! (you can read that again).
Uganda’s opening game at the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricket League (WCL) Division III was both emotional and of consequential value for Team Uganda.
‘Prodigal son’ Arnold Otwani was making a ‘Second Debut’ in the side having last played for the senior side in May 2017 when Uganda got relegated to Division IV. It was also the Team Manager Jackson Kavuma’s 11th month wedding anniversary and the team was eager to put some smiles on the face of their tough but much-loved manager who has stood with them through thick and thin.
But there was a ‘little’ stumbling block in Uganda’s way with history not on their side as the Cricket Cranes had previously lost their opening games at the last two ICC meets.
Cue in Rizwan Cheema’s 44-ball blitz of 91 runs as Canada steamrolled Uganda by 66 runs by Duckworth, Lewis and Stern (DLS) Method in a rain-shortened game at on May 23, 2017 at Lugogo. Fast forward to April 29 this year, there was another similar result during the Division IV Qualifier when Uganda painfully lost to hosts Malaysia by 9 runs at the Kinrara Academy Oval in Kuala Lumpur.
But if you are a believer then you will concur that God does His things in ‘different fairy-tale and interesting ways’. If you’re atheist, then you can call it fate.
But from the brink of looking on helplessly as his international career prematurely came to a halt, Otwani found timely respite and resolve in his midst - first to make peace with himself, and secondly with his teammates and backroom staff before he could be given a heavily-monitored probation period to re-check his disciplinary reforms.
It wasn’t a flawless spell but Otwani did well to win over the literally already converted hearts of the Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) Selectors Committee and backroom staff as he made the final cut for the travelling 14 players to Oman amidst some furore in the fraternity over his selection.
His talent not in doubt, the man who features for Ceylon Lions at club level in national competitions back in Uganda, has been quietly going about his business in the build up to the tournament as the Cricket Cranes acclimatised for four days here in the Arabian Peninsula of Oman.
And it was no surprise as he picked up the Man-of-Match plaque for a stylish and boundary-filled half century of 88 off just 86 balls as Uganda chased Denmark’s set target of 166 to cruise home by five wickets with 82 balls remaining.
Otwani wielded his willow like a magic wand finishing with 15 sweetly-timed boundaries as Uganda overcame the early loss of captain Roger Mukasa (0 off 2). The 23-year-old showed his form early on in his innings as he got off the mark with two successive boundaries - an exquisite cut shot through point and an assured over-the-top drive over cover.
His first sweep shot behind square leg for four, which was his 10th boundary, brought up his half century (50 off 46 balls); which was also the first at this six-nation meet including Oman, Kenya, Singapore and USA at a tournament that is part of the qualification pathway to the 2023 World Cup that will be hosted by India.
There were contributions from Riazat Ali Shah (29* off 28), Dinesh Nakrani (20 off 37) and Deus Muhumuza (10* off 33) as Otwani agonisingly fell 12 runs short of a deserved ton. But by then, the game was as good as over as a contest with Uganda needing 36 runs off the last 21 overs.
But earlier in the first innings, Otwani had showed he was in his element as he donned the Cranes’ yellow stripe for the first time by clinging onto four catches behind as the day’s gloveman.
Denmark had started strongly reaching 45 for no loss and 54 for 1 in 10 overs but skipper Mukasa introduced Shah (2 for 24 in 7) into the attack, who went on to cheaply prize out the two openers Freddie Klokker (14) and Hamid Shah (31).
But it was another man Charles Waiswa, heavily criticised as a spent force, that rolled back the years with a decisive spell that saw him go economical but wicket-less in his first but finish with immeasurable figures of 4 for 25 in 8.4 overs after his second.
The 30-year-old left-arm seamer played perfect foil for spinners Henry Ssenyondo (2 for 26 in 10) and Irfan Afridi (1 for 25 in 9) who had suffocated the Danish batsmen with parsimonious spells.
“This is a good answer to all my critics back at home,” said Otwani, wearing relieved look but very emotional, after the match. “This is also a result of hard work. It has been a long process for me to come back into the team. I dedicate my Man-of-Match award to the coach (Steve Tikolo). He believed in me and gave me a second chance when I least deserved one. This is the start and I want to continue doing well for my country.”
America Up Next
And with the Round One results showing Uganda atop the log with a better Net Run Rate (NRR), the Cricket Cranes will be looking to make it two-on-the-bounce against USA. Uganda does have a score to settle with Americans, who for the former are the reason why they got relegated to Division IV.
Uganda have not yet forgotten the day - May 30, 2017 - when they collapsed in a heap as they chased a paltry 145 runs enroute to a 13-run loss to USA at the lakeside Entebbe Cricket Ground.
That was Uganda’s penultimate match in the ICC WCL Division III tournament hosted in the Pearl of Africa.
That defeat condemned Uganda to unchartered territory with their first-ever relegation to Division IV tier.
“We are still hurting,” said senior player Frank Nsubuga. “Good thing is that we got our consolation by winning the Division IV event in Malaysia earlier this May. No we have a chance to get one over them (USA).”
New Men At Helm
Towering Elmore Hutchinson (53 off 50), who scooped the Man-Of-Match award against Uganda will want to repeat his heroics when the two sides face off but with Uganda having a new rearguard led by Nsubuga’s younger sibling Roger Mukasa, it will not be a walk in the park.
“We were a bit naive and you know playing in-front of your home fans comes with a lot pressure. We are more polished now,” said Mukasa, who took over the reins from Davis Karashani.
But USA will also aim to go for the jugular as they boast of a talented squad including Aaron Jones and Hayden Walsh Jr.
“As a team, we have had an extensive combine process early this year where we have gathered the best mix of experience and talent on the team. We have had numerous special training camps throughout the year,” USA captain Saurabh Netravalker, who is a full-time software developer, said.
“Each and every player has been setting goals and maintaining records of their individual progress. I am expecting to see some fierce competition and a high intensity game. I am positive that all the hard work we have done as a team will pay off at the tournament.”
The top two places in Oman will send teams into World Cricket League Division 2 taking place in Namibia between April18-28. The CWC League 2 line-up will be completed by the top four teams from Division 2, who will join Scotland, Nepal and United Arab Emirates. The bottom four teams from the Oman event will play in the ICC Cricket World Challenge League.