It took an all-round clinical performance for Team Uganda to kickstart their campaign on a super-sweet note with a 25-run victory against Jersey at the International Cricket Council (ICC) Cricket World Cup (CWC) Challenge League B in Muscat, Oman yesterday.
The win ensured Uganda boss the standings with two points in the bag, and with another eight still play for over the next 12 days in the race to the 2023 World Cup in India.
But Uganda didn’t just smoother their way to victory. Instead they had to fight against the odds after new skipper Brian Mark Masaba, in his first reign at an ICC event, lost the toss and was asked to bat first.
Uganda’s top-order batsmen went ahead to crumble to the swinging Duke ball at 36 for 3 inside 10 overs with Arnold Otwani (12), Roger Mukasa (16) and Ronak Patel (0) back in the dugout and duly subjected to cheering roles.
But Masaba (40 off 83) sought to lead from the front with stroke-maestro Shahzad Kamal (47 off 56), who is returning to the side for the first time since 2017, rebuilding the innings with a 70-run partnership for the fourth wicket to steer the Cricket Cranes back on track.
Both fell cheaply trying to up the ante and forthwith missed out on reaching the half century landmark. Then new men Dinesh Nakrani (79*) and Riazat Ali Shah (37) turned struggling starts into controlled aggression shifts to guide Uganda to 248 for the loss of 8 wickets after the allotted 50 overs - Uganda’s highest since April 2018 when they set 249 for 5 against Bermuda in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at the ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Division IV meet.
Nakrani’s unbeaten 70-ball knock and bowling figures of 2 for 32 in 8.1 overs won him the Man of Match award - his first in 50-over international cricket. But despite standing out, Nakrani had a handful of teammates that played second fiddle perfectly.
Veteran Frank Nsubuga (2/41) struck twice at crucial intervals, skipper Masaba managed to rewind the clock with some medium pacers to eject danger-man Ben Stevens (43 off 58) as Jersey threatened to steal it at 100 for 2 in 28 overs and 196 for 6 in 43 overs. The fielding was also spot on, accounting for two Jersey batsmen’s runouts with flawless ground fielding and catching.
“I am happy for my first international award. At some moments when Jersey dominated, I thought the game was gone. But our senior players came to the party and I thank the captain for trusting me to bowl me in specific moments,” said left-handed Nakrani.
Masaba, too, lauded his boys for a great team effort. “It is always important to get off any tournament with victory. Jersey played well but we backed ourselves to do better than them,” said Masaba.
Uganda will take a rest today, look to recuperate and hope injured opening bowler Charles Waiswa can recover in time for the next outing against Kenya as the other four teams in the fray lock horns at Oman Cricket’s lush green twin ovals.