Cricket Cranes expect no blues on Bulawayo debut

Flying higher. The Cricket Cranes players and the technical team congratulate one another after the thriller against Kenya at the Lugogo Oval a fortnight ago. The team will be playing in the breezy weather in Bulawayo starting on July 12, 2022. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO

What you need to know:

  • Like any bird, a Crane’s natural instinct is to fly either when seeking freedom or fleeing trouble.

It has been nine years since the Cricket Cranes last played at the International Cricket Council (ICC) Men’s Twenty20 World Cup Global Qualifier. This event is the unofficial World Cup of the Associate Cricketing Nations.

Things like six-star hotels, seven-course meals, patrol-chauffeured rides and top-notch security among others are must. Very Important Peoples (VIP) treatment is the order of the day. 
But that doesn’t matter.

The emphasis is always on what happens on the field of play and Uganda coach Laurence Mahatlane knows this too well.

“They know that they will only be at the Globals because they earned the right through their performances last year and must look to do even better to progress to the World Cup,” states Mahatlane.

Uganda were overwhelming favourites at the ICC Twenty20 Africa Sub-Regional World Cup Qualifier in Rwanda that they duly won last October. 

Captain Brian Masaba & Co. went on to show their big mentality after losing to Kenya in the opening game of the ICC T20 Africa World Cup Qualifier to string up five consecutive wins en route to scooping the African T20 title.

Blast from the past

It was that shift in Kigali that got Uganda back to the Globals for the first time since the 2013 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in the United Arab Emirates where they finished 13th at the 16-nation Mini-World Cup.

There are only four survivors from that squad are Masaba, the spinning pair of Frank Nsubuga and Henry Ssenyondo alongside Roger Mukasa.

Mukasa, a former captain of the side, is just returning after 18 months in the cold and the honest truth Uganda is not rated.

“That’s the best time in your life when you are in the corner,” Mahatlane says, trying to seek the positives out of the situation.

“How you swing back is important and this team has shown a lot of character. From a position of losing the first game, they won the Pearl of Africa Series last September and in Kigali. Fans got a chance to see the same at the Challenge League B a fortnight ago after the team won three in a row from two losses against Jersey and Hong Kong.

“Sometimes I think the guys love not being rated and have great bounce back ability. In Zimbabwe, we’ve to start on the front foot.”

Like any bird, a Crane’s natural instinct is to fly either when seeking freedom or fleeing trouble. Masaba and Mahatlane have been in spots of bother when their brigade has been under siege and know the only reprieve is a winning start.

Seeking a flying start

“We are the Cranes and we have to get off flying. We have talked about sticking together and we’ve told each other how we’re gonna rock up on the first day. 

“It is important our mindsets are in it when we play our first game on Monday (vs. Hong Kong). It is important how we carry the winning momentum from the last game (vs Kenya) to the tournament,” said the 30-year-old captain.

Ugandan cricket teams have been to Zimbabwe a zillion times but it has always been Harare and Takashinga with one of the nation’s fast-rising all-rounder Kenneth Waiswa fresh from a fruitful semi-professional stint at the latter.

It is going to be a debut for Cricket Cranes in Bulawayo – a city proven to be no oatmeal for visiting teams. It has English conditions and it is going to be breezy.

Good local knowledge

“Bulawayo is in the middle of winter,” said Mahatlane, the South African tactician showing his wealth of knowledge of the weather conditions across the continent.

“It’s going to be quite cold. The mornings will be chilly. Estimates show that it will be between 10 and 12 degrees Celsius. Midday will be the hottest at 20 degrees.”

That will certainly play a big factor on how the wickets and outfield plays at both Bulawayo Athletic Club and Queens Sports Club – the two match venues.

“It is going to be a bit slow. The spinners are going to play a crucial role as well as extreme pace.

Our inclusion of Roger Mukasa in the side makes us have a possible four to five spinners whereas Bilal Hassun gives an option of real good pace. We are excited with the balance we have in the squad. After we read the match conditions, we will pick horses for courses for any match day,” Mahatlane offered in analysis.

Hassun and Mukasa are the only new faces from the squad that delighted fans in their comeback during the Challenge League B as Mahatlane avoided the temptation to tinker with the squad and alter the script that has been impregnable since last year.

The two top finishers at the eight-nation event will advance to this year’s ICC T20 World Cup in Melbourne, Australia.

ICC T20 W. Cup Qualifier

Group A
Jersey (21)    Singapore (20)
USA (26)     Zimbabwe (12)
Group B
Netherlands (18)    Papua New Guinea (19)
Hong Kong (24)    Uganda (25)
*In brackets are T20 world rankings
Uganda's games in Zimbabwe
July 11:    Hong Kong     vs.     Uganda
July 12:    Papua NG    vs.     Uganda
July 14:     Netherlands     vs.     Uganda

Cranes’ squad to Zimbabwe

1. Brian Masaba (captain), 2. Roger Mukasa, 3. Simon Ssesazi, 4. Ronak Patel, 5. Dinesh Nakrani, 6. Riazat Ali Shah, 7. Fred Achelam, 8. Frank Akankwasa, 9. Frank Nsubuga, 10. Henry Ssenyondo, 11. Juma Miyaji, 12. Cosmas Kyewuta, 13. Bilal Hassun 14. Kenneth Waiswa