Four wins out of four matches is a script no pundit, even the most passionate, would have predicted.
And yet the Cricket Cranes are living the dream after sinking Italy by 38 runs in an epic and thrilling International Cricket Council (ICC) Cricket World Cup (CWC) Challenge League B match at Oman Cricket Academy in Al Amerat yesterday.
The hard-earned victory took Uganda to an unassailable eight points with their closest challengers for the first leg’s bragging rights - Hong Kong - on five points.
For the first-time in the tournament, the Uganda dug-out shared bare hugs and high fives after leaving it late against an Italian side littered with seasoned professionals plying their trade in the elite leagues of United Kingdom and South Africa. Such was its significance for Uganda, who are anxious to stay on the road to the 2023 World Cup in India.
The final result is quite deceptive though. Truth? Uganda escaped jail on the day thanks to its strong bowling show. At a tournament that has been dominated by the willow-wielders, Uganda’s bowling arsenal put up its hand after the Cricket Cranes had folded for 218.
At 14 for 1 in 10 overs and 58 for 2 in 20, Uganda were in a dire need of a saviour. They got two, not one!cShahzad Kamal (78 off 88) and Ronak Patel (52 off 73) put up their hands, and duly converted with their third half-centuries of the showpiece in a 120-run partnership for third wicket to steer Uganda temporarily out of trouble at 163 for 3 in 38.3 overs.
When the industrious duo fell, no one else added any meaningful contributions as Gareth Berg (4/25) and Nikolai Smith (4/44) made hurtful in-roads into Uganda’s batting line-up.
But Uganda’s bowlers, too, led by Man of Match (MOM) Bilal Hassan (5 for 27 in 8.4 overs) refused to be overshadowed. Dinesh Nakrani (3/38 in 9) claimed the prize scalps of Giani Meade (43), captain Joy Perera (1) and Gareth Berg (17), Frank Nsubuga (1/34 in 10) and Roger Mukasa (1/36 in 10) all turned up with mention-worthy shifts.
Hassan, though, stole the show with a sensational second spell during which he knocked over Rakibul Hassan (29) and Michael Ross (32) to the dim the last lights on the sinking Italian ship in the 47th over.
“Thanks to Allah for helping me to guide the team to victory. We worked as bowlers. We denied their batsmen boundaries and made our total look like very big one. I am happy I was picked for award,” said MOM Hassun.
Today, Uganda will put their legs up in their air and cool off as they plot for Hong Kong who they play in their final match of the tournament tomorrow.
ICC CWC CHALLENGE LEAGUE B
Uganda 218/10 Italy 180
Uganda won by 38 runs
Jersey 233/5 Kenya 239/3
Kenya won by 7 wickets
today - rest day
Team M W L N/R Pt NRR
Uganda 4 4 0 0 8 0.593
Hong Kong 3 2 0 1 5 0.470
Kenya 4 1 2 1 3 0.027
Italy 4 1 2 1 3 -0.985
Jersey 4 1 3 0 2 0.200
Bermuda 3 0 2 1 1 -0.652