Doha. Debuts in sport are always pressure-filled and emotional moments.
For Simon Ssesaazi, it was a moment of reckoning. The 21-year-old stylish left-hander broke the shackles and flourished with a Man of Match (MOM) half ton knock of 62 off 76 to secure Uganda their first win – a five-run thriller – against Qatar at the Asian Town Cricket Stadium in Doha on Friday night.
Ssesaazi sat out the opening game – a 13-run loss to the Qatar President’s XI on Thursday night’s Twenty20 blitz – and must have been wondering whether his role was going to be on the bench for the bigger part of the tour. But with Uganda have travelled with a large squad of 16 players, Ssesaazi was destined to get his berth with coach Steve Tikolo expected to ring changes on a daily.
“Simon, express yourself on your debut and go get a hundred,” was what Tikolo told Ssesaazi soon after the latter received his cap from captain Roger Mukasa.
After Mukasa departed for just 13 runs, Ssesaazi orchestrated a free-flowing and was the lead actor in a 94-run second-wicket partnership with Hamu Kayondo (30). Uganda went on to collapse from 121 for 2 to 191 all out in 46.3 overs – the last eight wickets crumbling for 70-odd.
“I have always wanted to play for my country,” said Ssesaazi, younger brother to Henry Ssenyondo, who is a left-arm spinner in the team. “I am going to work hard to ensure the selectors never drop me again. To all my fans, keep praying for me. I will make you proud.”
Ssesaazi later patrolled point with effectiveness as the bowlers worked with their magic to restrict Qatar to 36 for 3. A 103-run fourth wicket partnership between Tamoor Sajjad (52) and Inam Ul-Haq (44) stabilised threatened to take the game away from Uganda’s reach.
But Deus Muhumuza, who picked a career best of 6 for 28 in 4 to take the MOM in first game, sprung to the occasion by castling Sajjad at 35.1 overs. Muhumuza ended with impressive figures of 2 for 25 whereas left-arm orthodox spinner Henry Ssenyondo also registered parsimonious figures of 1 for 22 in 10.
The quartet of Bilal Hassun (2 for 47 in 8), Charles Waiswa (1 for 12 in 5), Irfan Afridi (1 for 36 in 7) and Riazat Ali Shah (0/24 in 7) bowled in tandem partnerships to wrestle the initiative back Uganda’s way.
Needing 13 runs off the last over, Shah gave away only seven runs to give Uganda a five-run win to the delight of the dugout led by inspirational coach Steve Tikolo.