Cricket Cranes eager to pull off Italian Job

Monday December 09 2019
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Firing blanks. Roger Mukasa, arguably Uganda’s best batsman of this generation, is yet fire any purposeful runs for his team in Oman. PHOTO BY ICC.

Three wins in as many matches has left the Cricket Cranes camp in blissful mood.
Uganda have never been in such a commanding position at International Cricket Council (ICC) global events.
Many hurdles have been skipped thus far. Kenya fell for the first time in the 50-over format by 3 wickets and the third-game syndrome was overcome too in the 7-wicket victory against Bermuda last Friday.
But Steve Tikolo reckons, there is nothing to really celebrate about as the three-legged ICC Cricket World Cup (CWC) Challenge League B showpiece has ‘just only got started’.

Different format
“We have to play 15 games (five every year at one meet) against the same opponents and finish atop the log to qualify for the next CWC qualification phase,” explained Kenyan legend Tikolo.
“Six points in the bag is good thus far but in actual sense we are just getting started. The number of points we pick up early on in this format will help give us enough cushion and comfort in the closing round when pressure comes into play.”
And it is on that forecast that Tikolo has urged his brigade not to rest on their laurels.

“The last two games against Italy and Hong Kong are going to be our toughest. The guys must continue working hard to produce the good results,” said Tikolo, a man who played in five World Cups.
“We must keep our winning tactics. Study the wicket in the morning, and make the right calls when picking the Playing XI. The combinations will matter. Italy is not weak side but we must strive to better them.”

Italians trump cards
The Italians, who boast of several Sri Lankan-born players in their ranks, had restricted Hong Kong to 170 runs for the loss of 7 wickets in 45.3 overs before a bout of heavy rains caused by air depression hit Oman Cricket Academy (OCA) in Al Amerat - the venue of the games - and forthwith for officials to suspend play by press time yesterday.
Uganda must be wary of Nikolai Smith, who toned it up with an unbeaten 102 against Kenya, as well 32-year-old Joy Perera with the bat. Cricket Cranes’ steely batsmen must also play out off-break bowler Michael Ross, who leads the wickets tally with seven, and England-based seasoned all-rounder Gareth Berg (5 wickets) with extra caution.

Captain Brian Masaba, who is yet to win the pre-match toss, could welcome back left-arm medium-fast opening bowler Charles Waiswa, if the latter passes a late fitness test after being stretchered off in the opener against Jersey with a lower back problem last Monday.
The opening combo of Roger Mukasa and Arnold Otwani will also be eager to give Uganda a solid start after failing in two attempts.
Victory, today, will leave the Cranes in a good position of claiming the first leg’s bragging rights ahead of the final match on Wednesday against Hong Kong.

Uganda vs. Italy, OC Turf 2
Jersey vs. Kenya, OC Turf 1

Table standings

Team M W L Pt NRR
Uganda 3 3 0 6 0.551
Hong Kong 2 2 0 4 0.470
Jersey 3 1 2 2 0.425
Italy 2 1 1 2 -1.096
Kenya 2 0 2 0 -0.197
Bermuda 2 0 2 0 -0.652