Tales of a Ugandan Cricket Fan: Third Time is Always the Charm!

Tales of a Ugandan Cricket Fan: Third Time is Always the Charm!

By Faith Munezero

Success is almost totally dependent upon drive and persistence. The extra energy required to make another effort or try another approach is the secret to winning.

       Denis Waitley

This particular quote caught my attention because of some of the things I got to witness at my next match. With my eyes set on another day of beautiful cricket, the fact the 2 of the best 3 teams in the Division 1 league (Aziz Damani CC and the Challengers CC) were facing off made it even more exciting.

For my next and third match, I set my sights on the lake side oval this time round, being the first time over there I held a little trepidation about how the day would unfold... How do I get there? What if I get lost? Where would I sit? Who would I meet? These were just a few of the silly questions that came to mind as soon as I got off that taxi. Little did I know it would be one of many firsts for this cricket fan!

Seeing as it would be my first there, I set off pretty early so I could be there in time. It took me about two and a half hours to get there but thankfully I had been in the area earlier in the year so it was a little familiar. I had to ask around a bit to get to the oval in particular, but thankfully there were some helpful gentlemen at the golf course reception who directed me to my destination. Who would have thought that I could ever be at a golf course, even in passing?? Not me, at least! It's pretty interesting the things I am being exposed to because of the sport. Even got to see some golfers in action. How's that for firsts!

But that’s a story for another day. Today is all about the match the one that was already 14 overs in with Aziz Damani in their trademark yellow/ green jerseys (batting) while the Challengers donned the black/green jerseys (fielding) that I had become all too familiar with.

Aziz Damani players walk off after another easy win

Being unfamiliar with the place, I saw a bar & restaurant instead of a pavilion or mini one like Kyambogo. I wondered where to go next, especially since they seemed to be preparing for some kind of function and I didn't see anyone other than those on the pitch, at first glance. After standing awkwardly for about 5 mins I managed to spot some people in yellow just below the restaurant. With the awkwardness of a student who arrives 15mins late during an ongoing math’s lesson, approached the gentlemen in yellow.  Up until that moment, it had slipped my mind that Brian Masaba was one of the team's players so imagine my shock when I reach over to say hi and I see him there...I was elated! We had met at Kyambogo at the Challengers vs KICC match and I didn't think we would meet again so soon. But to think I would get to meet the vice captain of the national team again, and that he would even recall my name...goodness, I think I had made it in life!

Stuffing my village excitement behind a calm grinning expression however, I happily greeted everyone, introducing me to the team coach and another member of the team. I was immediately put at ease by their welcoming smiles and looked forward to the match now that I had seen some familiar faces.

 He encouraged me to make myself comfortable and enjoy the match...directing me to a seat near a lone lady very busy with pen and paper. I thanked him and everyone else profusely as I walked towards my destination, saying hello as I passed until I got there.

When I got there, the young lady happily welcomed me and invited me to seat with her. I wondered whether I would be a distraction but she had none of it and said it was perfectly fine. I later realized that she was one of two scorers for the match that day and someone I had actually met before (yes, you're right, at Kyambogo). I was seated next to none other than Janet Mbabazi, Vice-Captain of the Lady Cranes cricket and Olila CC player!! My goodness, I had met 2 national team players in one day and that's before I even sat down to watch the match! Could my day get any better?! I certainly hoped so!

The people.

I went on to meet a lot more great people in the cricket fraternity throughout the day like budding youngster and Aziz Damani player Kenneth Waiswa, national team players Charles Waiswa, Fred Achelam, and Hamu Kayondo, Emmanuel Isaneez, CEO Aziz Damani team, UG Cricket’s Alvin Bagaya, Avengers CC player & all rounder Adowa Alpha, Challengers' power house Arthur Kyobe, their manager Mohammed Aneef, team mates Assadu Seyiga, David Wabwire, Steven Wabwose, among others. I even got to see Daily Monitor's sport's journalist, Darren Allan Kyeyune and of course, lots of Indians! (Haha) It was awesome (who knew I would even know them off head now?)

Kyobe Arthur with Hamza both turn out for Challengers in the league

The highlights

Having witnessed a Challengers match and seen what they were capable of, I looked forward to what challenge they would put up against the unbeaten kings of the league. Would they soil their winning streak or not? Alas, it wasn’t meant to be with the latter winning by 142 runs, but not without some fight though!

I must say I had great company. Janet was very pleasant and easy to talk to, at some point I asked her about the sport and we were so immersed in the discussion we missed a direction from umpire about a wide ball from a Challengers bowler! Very passionate and  an enthusiast about the sport, she patiently answered every question I asked, from player's names, to who to look out for. Like for example I had always wondered why after a particular delivery, a batsman sometimes moves up a bit to tap a certain point on the wicket. (I now know the answer of course) I also got to know the difference between caught behind wicket and being stumped by a wicket keeper.

Aziz Damani

I also got to know why during power play, Aziz Damani set their fielding n such a peculiar way (for me at least). It was in such a way that everybody on just one side of the wicket and none behind the batsman. I found it pretty amusing actually and laughed a bit until I asked her why. "Wouldn't the batsman just have to hit behind him?" I wondered.

Team Aziz Damani in a hurdle before a game

I mean he had so much space I thought it would be pretty easy for someone to make runs. I was not prepared for the shock I lesson I received! In my last article I mentioned how much of a mind game cricket is and this seemingly amusing strategy was one of those. She mentioned that the type of setting was how the bowler wanted it. She explained further that for it achieve the desired effect, he had to make his deliveries in such a way that the batsman could only play his shots towards the fielders. And would you know, the technique actually worked! It worked so well they had a wicket just 7 balls into the second innings!

I also got to witness some great shots from Sai-Saud partnership, one particular sixer for the latter flew straight on all the way past the boundary sealing his half ton contribution to the team.

Other than some close calls for the team due to fielding slip ups by the opponents, their runs kept coming unbidden all the way to the 50th over with 3 wickets to spare. I even got to witness one of the most unfortunate run outs I have ever seen! The striking batsman hit his shot with the non- striking already beginning to run but by the time he realized the ball was going straight for his stumps, it was too late and out he went! Bilal Hassan also did great, his two overs were marked by sixers, a near run out bringing the team to a good defendable score.

Challengers

With opening batsmen Arthur Kyobe on the crease, I knew they would be desperate to get them out as soon as possible before they could do any damage. The slips cordon was so tight that the first two overs yielded a paltry 2 runs and a vital wicket!

The spell almost continued with a near run out for Arthur Kyobe’s but the angels must have been on his side. He went on to put up exactly 52 runs before he was caught by Brian Masaba in the 14th over featuring Kenneth Waiswa. As always, the dropped catches off Mr Kyobe were quite a number, and each slip up was paid off with boundary after boundary, it was very amusing actually!

Then there were a good number of bouncers and no balls in this particular innings. Most of them to Kyobe. But he weathered most of them.

I got to see some great bowling from the Challengers, particularly Mohammed Aneef and David Wabwire.


Challengers players celebrate a wicket

I honestly missed seeing two people play though. One person was Ahmed Nasser of the Challengers.  I had witnessed him play during their match against KICC and knew he would be a force to reckon with for the Damani team. The other person was rising Cricket Cranes star and all-rounder Riazat Ali Shah! I thought this would have been an awesome opportunity to have a glimpse of his terrific display at the Gahanga stadium in Rwanda during the Africa B T20 qualifiers where he was even awarded Player of the tournament,   but sadly, it wasn't meant to be for me that day.

Lunch time bliss

Just after the 1st innings, we were all (players and fans alike) treated to a very spicy lunch and a drink. I barely finished it even! But I was touched by the generosity of the team...like lunch too? Cricketers are just too cool! I loved how everyone connected with the other so freely. Like at the KICC and Challengers match, you couldn't really tell the teams apart except for their uniforms really. The togetherness that everyone seems to have is so infectious that it's no wonder I feel more at ease with everyone with each passing match.

With a stuffed belly and some music from the bar and restaurant near us, the afternoon was a far from boring!

Comic moments

And what’s a cricket match without some humor? There was quite a bit of it with some few fielding slip ups but my most memorable of them started particularly when the CEO of Aziz Damani arrived. Armed with a mega phone in hand, he left the entire area in laughter and hysterics almost throughout the last 20 overs when Challengers were fielding especially the good natured banter between him and Arthur Kyobe.

The outfield

During play, I couldn't quite place how the outfield was this time. I guess it was a little faster than Lugogo but slower than Kyambogo. It seemed smaller too, but I can't be too sure. The boundaries were a lot more and came easier than at Lugogo or maybe it's because these were two of the best 3 teams in the league? Probably.

Bitter-sweet ending

All to soon, the match came to an end and all the fun that it came with and made for a great day, even though there was no beach party this time. By 6pm the game was dusted and concluded. The nearly 3hours’ trip to the oval had certainly been worth it and then some and even though I would probably get home in the night, I didn't mind it at all! It's just the beginning for me and I can't wait to see what tales the next match will bring. Like the Budonians say, Gakyali Mabaga.