Today will literally decide who either falls off or stays in contention for the International Cricket Council (ICC) Under 19 World Cup next year in South Africa. Only one slot is stake for the six competing nations.
Uganda and Nigeria have no room for error when they face off in a table-toppers clash with both teams eyeing the coveted bragging rights to remain the only unbeaten side here at the ongoing ICC U-19 Africa World Cup Qualifier in Windhoek.
Uganda got one over their arch foes Kenya on Day One with a comfortable 70 run win and then rallied to brush aside Sierra Leone by 75 runs but Uganda’s coaches Jackson Ogwang and his assistant Lawrence Ssematimba remain not too pleased with the manner in which Uganda’s wins have been garnered.
The frontline bowlers and batsmen have not fired for the Baby Cricket Cranes. Uganda have neither made any early breakthroughs nor put together any meaningful partnerships early on in both matches.
The bowlers have been guilty of bowling too short and many extras (51 in two matches) whereas the batsmen have been trying to score too quickly and have forthwith paid the price of getting caught behind early on while trying ‘big glory shots’.
It was under that guidance of the two matches played thus far that coaches Ogwang and Ssematimba dedicated yesterday’s training session to ‘back to the basics’.
“We must follow the basics if we are to win comfortably,” said Ogwang after the session at the Trustco United Ground. “You have seen that we have focused on the top order batters to play patiently and not chase balls away from their stumps. We have also primarily got the bowlers to pitch up early on so that the ball can swing. Basics is the way to go.”
Potential banana skins
And although Uganda have never lost to Nigeria at this level, the West Africans have made for themselves a name as ‘potential banana skins’ and will be itching to claim another major scalp after felling both pre-tournament favourites; hosts Namibia and Kenya.
Uganda swept Nigeria 4-0 in Kampala last year when the West Africans were preparing for ICC U-19 Africa Division II World Cup Qualifiers in Benoni, South Africa. The preparations from Uganda helped Nigeria win that qualifier to earn the right of playing here. And in preparation for this event, Nigeria camped in Harare, Zimbabwe and despite losing all the games there, they have showed that they reaped invaluable exposure.
Captain Sylvester Okpe and his vocal side have already caused ripples and with talents like Olayinke Olaleye, Sulaimon Runsewe and Emmanuel Boniface, Nigeria will be fancying their chances to claim another major scalp.
Namibia take on tricky Sierra Leone in the other fixture whereas Kenya will be looking for their first victory against Tanzania in a clash of two winless nations - thus far.
STANDINGS AFTER ROUND II
M W L T N/R Pts NRR
Uganda 2 2 0 0 0 4 1.420
Nigeria 2 2 0 0 0 4 1.090
Namibia 2 1 1 0 0 2 1.990
Sierra Leone 2 1 1 0 0 2 -0.450
Kenya 2 0 2 0 0 0 -1.280
Tanzania 2 0 2 0 0 0 -2.770
*NRR denotes Net Run Rate, NR for No Result, T for Tie
ICC U-19 AFRICA WC QUALIFIER
Today’s fixtures – 10.30am
Kenya vs. Tanzania, Wanderers C. Gd
Nigeria vs. Uganda, Windhoek A. Park
Namibia vs. Sierra Leone, Trustco U. Gd