For two of the last three years, the men’s club cricket calendar has spilled over into another year.
Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) is dealing with the same this time after they were challenged by lack of control on the ovals at Lugogo and Kyambogo venues.
Also, the fact that Aziz Damani Club contributes almost nine faces to the senior men’s national team affected their fixture schedule.
Holders Damani is the only team yet to make double digits in matches played in the 2019 National Men’s Division One 50-Over League.
That tally must inevitably increase to wrap up the season when Damani faces log leaders Challengers this morning at the lakeside oval in Entebbe in a top-of-table encounter, which has been framed as the title decider.
Top of the table clash
Challengers is top with 62 points from 12 outings while Damani is second on 48 points from nine matches. For a 14-game season, mathematically, this is a king-maker contest.
“It puts us in as title contenders considering if we win,” said Challengers’ batsman Arthur Kyobe.
The rivalry between both teams has been fuelled by not less than three postponements of this fixtures and not to forget, veiled sledging between the different players.
For instance, Damani’s pace man Emmanuel Isaneez posted a picture on WhatsApp of their team’s wicket celebration after he dismissed Challengers’ top-order left-hander Arthur Kyobe in a recent encounter.
“Setting the mood, that’s part of my preparation, just getting ready with mind-set,” Isaneez explained.
Three-time T20 champions Challengers have never won the 50-Over format and the closest they came was second behind Tornado Bee in 2016.
“It’s just a final for us and all the boys know it,” said Challengers’ Arnold Otwani.
“We are going to put everything on the field to win that game. We want to stop Aziz Damani dominance on Sunday (today),” he said.
Otwani did not mince his words at all.
“Our team is stronger and our batting is more solid than Damani actually. We just have to apply ourselves and do the basics,” he added.
And the statistics do back him up. The league’s three leading batsmen are from Challengers; captain Hamu Kayondo (393 runs from 10 innings), Otwani (342 from eight) and Zephaniah Arinaitwe (323 from 10).
However, when the two teams met in the first round, Damani set 217-9 with an 88-ball 54 half-ton from Kenneth Waiswa and in the chase, Otwani’s 114-ball 66 wasn’t enough, Challengers losing by 78 runs at Entebbe on July 28.
“We want to stay as champions for a third season running and we are looking for this important win,” noted Damani skipper Ghulam Hunzai whose best batsman is Saud Islam with 255 runs from six innings, four runs more than Brian Masaba.
With the ball, Challengers’ David Wabwire tops the charts with 26 scalps, five more than teammate Gerald Mubiru but Damani’s spinning duo of Frank Nsubuga and Henry Ssenyondo have 18 wickets apiece.
TODAY’S FIXTURE - 10:30 AM
Aziz Damani vs. Challengers, Entebbe
DIVISION ONE STANDINGS
1. Challengers 62 points (12 matches)
2. Aziz Damani 48 (9 matches)
3. Kutchi Tigers 37 (13)
4. Tornado Bee 33 (12)
5. KICC 31 (12)
6. SKLPS 27 (13)
7. Patidar 14 (11)
8. Tornado 6 (14)