Five wins out of five matches. Unbelievable but overwhelmingly true!
A captain’s knock by wicketkeeper Arnold Otwani, who had earlier taken four superb catches and carried his bat for match-winning half-century of 66, helped Uganda complete its Grand Slam at the first leg of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Cricket World Cup (CWC) Challenge League B showpiece with 10 unassailable points.
Vice captain Otwani, who was captain the side for the second successive match with new skipper Brian Masaba still bedridden, deservedly took the Man of Match award for his inspirational leadership and having guided his side home against the pre-tournament favourites Hong Kong by 6 wickets with 82 balls remaining at Oman Cricket Academy’s lush green turf yesterday.
“It hasn’t been easy for us. But we have left everything on the ground and God has rewarded us with success. It is the best Christmas gift we can give our long suffering but passionate fans,” said Otwani, who played out 112 balls was there at the end when Uganda crossed the line in 36.2 overs.
“We as a team pumped up each other to dedicate the match to our skipper Masaba who is down and bring a smile on his face. Hopefully we have done so.
“The 10 points mean that we are in the driver’s seat in the bid to progress to the next qualifying stage but most importantly it also means that we will be the hunted in Kampala at the second leg,” explained the 24-year-old athlete.
Day made for Uganda
The day started brightly with Otwani winning Uganda’s first and only toss of the tournament. The stylish player chose to bowl first and his decision paid off in priceless fashion as the Cricket Cranes bowlers kept the opposition batsmen in check.
Bilal Hassun (3/33 in 9) and 20-year-old Richard Agamire (2/26 in 10) bowled impeccable delivers. Agamire, in particular, beat the opposition’s bat-edges by a breadth of a whisker many a time in his express spell as justified by his three maidens.
Hong Kong’s only meaningful partnerships were their opening stand of 24 runs between Nizakat Khan (14) and Adit Gorawara (19) plus their last of 23 featuring Nasrulla Rana (20) and Aftab Hussain (4*).
Waqas Barkat ended up as their top scorer with a 43-ball 27 before getting clean bowled by left-arm orthodox spinner Henry Ssenyondo (2/24).
Gliding to victory
It’s a known cricketing cliche that small scores are always tough to chase down and the curse played out once again as Uganda stuttered at 40 for 4 in 13.3 overs.
All Uganda’s previous heroes; Shahzad Kamal (4) and Ronak Patel (1) were gone without contributing much for once but Nakrani (57 off 66) and captain of the day Otwani put up their hands with a 110-run combo for the fifth wicket to deliver a victory that was madly celebrated in Muscat and back in Uganda.
Uganda will travel back home knowing that not even today’s closing matches of the tournament can produce another winner rather than them - Cricket Cranes.