ABU DHABI- Richard Okia got the monkey off Uganda’s back for the first victory with an unbeaten 30-ball 33 that stole the show in a tense one-wicket win against Italy at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
The towering right-hand batsman finished the chase with a straight boundary to the sightscreen with one ball to spare in what was an exhibition of both maturity and urgency.
The 30-year-old arrived at the crease with Uganda reeling at 82 for 6 in 10 overs after Gareth Berg (62 off 34) had inspired the Italians to a competitive total of 148 for 4.
“I was calm,” said Okia after he was adjudged man-of-the-match by the four match officials.
“The idea was to keep scoring at the required rate and make sure we take it (game) to the end. I am happy to have contributed to my team’s first victory and hopefully I can do the same against Canada (today).”
But if one replays the manner in which Uganda had previously been defeated four times on this tour, it is forgivable if they expected them to lose this match as well.
The top order failed, the middle order was exposed, the tail-enders did more than grit with the bat and the bowlers had little to work with. But with an early exit staring at them, they showed immense courage and exhibited a ‘never-say-die attitude’ to pull off a heist.
But Okia didn’t solely take the credit for Uganda’s opening win. Left handers Charles Waiswa (21 off 15), who held his end firm in a match-changing ninth-wicket 35-ball 50-run partnership and Arthur Kyobe, playing in a new pinch-hitting role where he blazed five sixes in a 15-ball 36, deserve more than a pat on the back.
“We needed this win to get momentum going into the next games,” said coach Johan Rudolph, who was spotting a relieved look. “This is a tough tour and now the guys must show the same courage against Canada (today).”It was a good day for East Africa in Dubai as well with neighbours Kenya picking up their first win of the tournament – an easy eight-wicket victory over Denmark at the ICC Global Cricket Academy Oval.
Against Canada today, Uganda will run into a hungry lion that has lost three close shaves and looking to feast on them.
Former Ugandan internationals Henry Osinde and Kenneth Kamyuka will also be looking to leave a mark on their former teammates.
ICC T20 Qualifier
Italy 148/4 Uganda 151/9
Denmark 84/8 Kenya 85/2
Hong Kong 168/5 Canada 115/8
Nepal 137/7 Scotland 138/2