BY INNOCENT NDAWULA
OPENING FIXTURE - DECEMBER 2
Uganda vs. Jersey, 9am
At OC Turf 1, Al Amerat
May 5, 2018 - ICC WCL DIV IV, Kuala Lumpur
Jersey 126/10 in 44.2 overs
Uganda 55/3 in 19.4 overs
May 6, 2018 - ICC WCL DIV IV, Kuala Lumpur
Uganda 90/10 in 37 overs
Jersey 83/10 in 35 overs
Uganda won by 7 runs
Nostalgic? Hard to tell and see! The senior men’s cricket team find themselves in no man’s land - if catching feelings is anything to go by.
They can be forgiven for spotting blank faces on their second visit to the Sultanate of Oman. Many have a silent love-hate relationship for this gulf nation. The Cricket Cranes were showed so much love, off the field, by the hosts - Oman Cricket - on their debut visit exactly one year ago.
But the olive branch wasn’t extended to the oval as the coach Steve Tikolo’s boys could only manage a wooden spoon at the end of the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricket League Division III.
The beauty of sport is that it allows wounds to heal fast. And although the Cranes find themselves in the same city, it is a new dawn and hopefully, good tidings loom.
Uganda make their bow in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Challenge League B showpiece - a pathway to the 2023 Cricket World Cup in India against Jersey this morning at Oman Cricket’s lush green twin grounds in Al Amerat.
The three-legged league is just three steps away from India 2023 for the participants, a possible 10 points are at stake for a team that can will all its five games (per leg) and every match will be keenly followed and closely contested because the games carry List A status.
Bermuda, Hong Kong, Italy, and Kenya are the other teams in the fray for this opening leg that runs until December 12 with the other two legs spread out over the next two years.
For Uganda, they must hit the ground running if they are to keep their World Cup dream alive.
Jersey - the largest of the Channel Islands located between England and France with an estimated population of 172,000 people living on 45 square miles - will however not be easy pushovers.
They were the first country to check into the Sultanate of Oman and have played three warm-up and acclimatization matches against different Oman Cricket XIs. The Chanel Islanders are also fresh from the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier in UAE two months ago where they claimed three big scalps including the hosts.
And in their only two meetings against Uganda at the ICC World Cricket League Division IV, they showed their toughness in two low-scoring but thrilling matches in Malaysia last year.
Uganda emerged victorious but it was after being pushed to the wall. One of the games was a No Result, thanks to persistent and growing drizzle in Kuala Lumpur on May 5, 2018. And the other was edged by the Cricket Cranes on May 6, 2018 by seven runs with credit going to the slow-bowling pair of brothers; Frank Nsubuga (4/20) and Roger Mukasa (3/7) who restricted Jersey to 83 runs in pursuit of 90 runs. It was that victory that ensured Uganda win the tournament.
Since then, victories have been a far cry with the Cricket Cranes struggling to find success both on the road and at home.
New skipper, new beginnings
But new captain Brian Mark Masaba, who is taking over from Roger Mukasa Galiwango is well aware of Cricket Cranes’ misgivings and wants the new slate to start in earnest.
“We would like to do somethings a little differently,” said Masaba, who tasted some victory after Uganda won the recent Tour of Zimbabwe series 3-2.
“We want to take it one game at a time and grow into the tournament in a competitive way. We have a well-balanced side and each of the players will be looking to carry out their roles. A strong and winning start will be on our minds when we play Jersey first up.”
Jersey, though, will be itching to dent Uganda’s campaign from the onset and the big names in their squad including Ben Stevens, who has some county cricket experience on his shoulders, alongside the trio of Harrison Carlyon, Anthony Hawkins-Kay and Elliot Miles must be watched closely right from the onset.
The 50-over competition with List A status will also see Bermuda, Hong Kong, Italy and Kenya exchange pleasantries in an event that was originally scheduled to be held in Hong Kong but postponed due to instability over there.
Sneak peek into League A
Canada and Singapore have made early inroads into the Challenge League A table both with eight points after five matches following the first competition in Malaysia in September this year.
12 teams will compete in Challenge League A and B once a year respectively in 2019, 2020 and 2021. The league will see a total of 90 competitive 50 over List A matches for teams ranked 21-32. The top team in each league at the culmination of the competition will secure two of the six places in the Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier Play-Off to be held in 2022, alongside the bottom four of Men’s CWC League 2.
WHAT COACH STEVE TIKOLO SAYS
“As a team, we are upbeat and looking forward to the Challenge League B series. We also believe it is a good opportunity for us. It is every team's desire to play in the World Cup and this is a great opportunity for us.
“With the new changes in place, we stand to play more games, a total of 15, during the qualifying process. I believe this is a good move that will see the level and quality of cricket improve across the board. The more teams play competitive cricket, the more they will improve.”