MUSCAT. There was a deafening silence in the team bus as the Cricket Cranes headed back to their base - City Seasons Hotel in the Oman capital Muscat - after succumbing to a six-wicket defeat to Kenya in the East African Derby yesterday.
Not only could a pin-drop be heard, a quick glance around each of the 22 members of Uganda’s contingent here was blank-faced. Some wished the ground could swallow them whereas others buried their heads in shame by sleeping throughout the 45-minute journey back from Al Amarat to the City Center. That undesirable sinking feeling was evident.
It was a quick reminder to the forgettable events that happened when Uganda suffered the ignominy of relegation to Division IV in May last year after narrowly losing to United States of America (USA) by 13 runs at the lakeside oval in Entebbe.
And although Uganda still has a mathematical chance to progress to Division II scheduled for April 18-28, 2009 in Namibia, the ghosts of Entebbe seemed to have followed Uganda to Muscat.
No Lady Luck
In the previous Division III events, Lady Luck did seem to elude Uganda as the captains lost the crucial pre-match toss and the coach couldn’t dictate on what to do after reading how the wickets were playing. There was also the issue of always starting with a loss.
But Uganda looked to have shed enough skin in the scorching heat of Muscat as Uganda got off to a flier with a five-wicket win against Denmark and then skipper Mukasa called twice at the flick of the coin against USA and Kenya, yesterday.
But Uganda were, this time round, hurt by ICC’s suspension of Irfan Mohammed Afridi from bowling in international cricket with immediate effect after his action was found illegal following video analysis ‘allegedly’ taken during the match against Denmark on November 9.
Normally, the procedure takes at least 14 days as the videos are reviewed but ICC were happy to put a halt to exciting Afridi’s career as quick as possible. The ICC Expert Panel of Mark King and Andrea Cutti, who are members of the ICC Panel of Human Movement Specialists, for their analysis and assessment said in a release; "The assessment revealed that the amount of elbow extension in Irfan (Afridi)'s bowling action was above the 15 degrees level of tolerance permitted under the regulations."
With the bad news trickling just an hour to play against Kenya, it left Uganda’s camp in disarray with vice captain Brian Masaba being summoned to replace the suspended Afridi, who now has to go to one of the five ICC accredited corrective bowling centres in South Africa, England, India, Australia and Pakistan before he can have a bowl again.
“Lala (Afridi) could have played as a batsman but we didn’t want to field him because he wasn’t in the right frame of mind. The news came in after we had put him on the playing list which we had to change,” explained Team Manager Jackson Kavuma.
Afridi void felt
And without the big-hitting all-rounder, a darling of many fans across Associate Cricket and a nephew of Pakistan legend Shahid Afridi, who was the best bowler at the last three international tournaments Uganda competed in including; The ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Division III in Uganda (May 2017), ICC WCL Division IV in Malaysia (May 2018) and the ICC World Twenty 20 Africa B Qualifiers in Rwanda (July 2018), Uganda’s chances against Kenya were dashed and forthwith their ambitions to progress.
Captain Mukasa’s struggles with the bat continued whereas Arnold Otwani, who scored back-to-back half tons in the first two outings, fell cheaply for 16. Dinesh Nakrani paid the price of being over zealous when he skied one into the heavens soon after reaching 50 and despite a reaguard from tournament debutant Masaba of 21 off 64 and last-wicket partnership of 22 from 21 balls from Charles Waiswa (22* off 29) and Henry Ssenyondo (9* off 12), Uganda could only set 177.
Not only was Afridi’s lusty-hitting missed in the first innings, no one could fill his void as the Cricket Cranes tried to defend their small score on these Asian wickets that offer evident assistance to the bowlers with the type of Duke balls being used at this meet.
The early jittery moments saw Kenya fall to 33 for 3 and later 71 for 4 with classy veteran Frank Nsubuga (2/28) prizing out a pair of scalps but Irfan Karim (59 off 118) and Nelson Mandela Odhiambo (53 off 68) grinded out an unbeaten and match-winning partnership of 107 runs in 26 overs as the noisy neighbours claimed the bragging rights with 25 balls to spare.
Although two games remain against Singapore and hosts Oman, the campaign is literally over for Uganda. Surely, the Cricket Cranes could do with some love from ICC Division III events. Unfortunately this is the last with the Super League and Challenge Cups lined up to replace the World Cricket League structure starting May 2019.
ICC WCL DIVISION III IN MUSCAT, OMAN
TUESDAY - NOVEMBER 13 RESULTS
Denmark 154 runs all out in 41.4 overs
Oman 155 runs for 7 wkts in 47.2 overs
Oman won by 3 wickets (with 16 balls remaining)
Man of Match: Jatinder Singh (73 runs off 105 balls)
Uganda 177 runs for 9 wickets in 50 overs
Kenya 178 runs for 4 wickets in 45.5 overs
Kenya won by 6 wickets (with 25 balls remaining)
Man of Match: Irfan Karim (59 runs off 118 balls)
Table Standings After Day 4
Team P W L Pts NRR
Oman 3 3 0 6 0.613
USA 2 2 0 4 2.120
Singapore 2 1 1 2 0.443
Uganda 3 1 2 2 -0.104
Kenya 3 1 2 2 -1.176
Denmark 3 0 3 0 -1.116
THUESDAY NOVEMBER 13 FIXTURES
Denmark vs. USA, OCA Turf 1
Singapore vs. Uganda, OCA Turf 2
*All matches start at 8.30am Ugandan time.