Cricket Cranes mix wit & muscle to become champs

Ali Shah was exceptional in 2022. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

What you need to know:

A fearless Miyagi scored the required five runs in the last over to calm the nervous Ugandan dugout. Then in the final, the Cricket Cranes played their first perfect match.

Uganda’s cricket story in 2022 largely rotated on the international front in 2022. Owing to the spill over of events following postponements due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the national teams found themselves making more hay than clubs did.

And perhaps, Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) now with a new CEO Allan Mugume, who replaced Martin Ondeko who had served for 13 years in different capacities, will need to think smarter on how to revamp clubs and grassroot structures, that’s notwithstanding Aziz Damani’s dominance across all fronts and new Red Ball Cricket showpieces in Jinja.

Such has been a long year that saw the Baby Cricket Cranes return to the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup stage for the first time in 16 years but their seniors missed two glorious opportunities to the ICC 2023 ODI and 2022 Twenty20 World Cup tournaments.

However, coach Laurence Mahatlane’s squad emerged victorious at the inaugural Africa Cricket Association (ACA) T20 Africa Cup in South Africa as well as the East Africa Tri-Nation T20 Cup in Rwanda.

The birth of Miyagi

It certainly could have been better, considering Uganda had fought hard to win two matches of the five during their Tour of Namibia back in April.

That came weeks after the teenagers had returned from West Indies where they had finished 13th, a place better than 14th place they secured at both the 2004 edition in Bangladesh and at the 2006 showpiece in Sri Lanka.

Of course, coach Ivan Thawithemwira rued the poor preparations for the team, perhaps understandable owing to the long-standing restrictions stemming from the Covid-19 lockdowns.

There were more lessons than shortcomings in the heavy defeats to ICC Full Members India and South Africa but it all felt worthwhile when they beat Scotland by 57 runs via Duckworth & Lewis (D/L) Method in the last match on January 30.

Opening bowler Juma Miyagi was the team’s best with 13 wickets including best figures of 4/25 against the Scots. Then captain Pascal Murungi managed 191 runs in six innings, just 23 runs better than Cyrus Kakuru.

Kakuru was the tournament’s best wicket-keeper with 15 dismissals and the trio, together with Joseph Baguma and Ronald Lutaaya finished the year with senior T20 international debuts.

Right-arm pace bowler Miyagi made the team to Namibia and has since become a mainstay, offering a luxury to many fans to respectfully move over the likes of veteran Charles Waiswa.

Miyagi’s pace combo with Cosmas Kyewuta has given Mahatlane a great selection headache all year but left several opposing batting line-ups damaged. That also meant Riazat Ali Shah, Dinesh Nakrani and Kenneth Waiswa would get some breathing space and concentrate more on batting.

Missed World Cup chances

The Miyagi-Kyewuta pace bowling partnership was unleashed at the round II of the ICC Cricket World Cup (CWC) Challenge League B in Kampala in June.

Having won all five matches in the first round played in November, 2019, Uganda this time faltered with a 62-run loss to Jersey in Lugogo and then a shock six-wicket defeat to Hong Kong in Kyambogo.

Brian Masaba and co. woke up to beat Bermuda by eight wickets before seven-wicket wins over Italy and Kenya, hinged on two half-centuries from left-hand opener Simon Sesaazi to maintain top spot heading to Jersey for the final round.

Before Jersey, Uganda had another immediate matter to sort at the ICC Twenty20 World Cup Qualifier B in Zimbabwe in July which ended with the Cricket Cranes finishing fifth after beating Jersey and Hong Kong via close shaves in Consolation play-offs in July in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Upon arriving in Jersey after long connection routes through England and then a ferry to the Jersey Islands for the ICC WCL B round III, Uganda was outsmarted by the hosts who usurped them to take top spot.

This came after the Cranes failed to chase a target of 173 runs against Kenya and following that 36-run loss, the next 153 and 218-run victories over Bermuda and Hong Kong could not swing the mathematics back into Uganda’s favour.

Uganda broke records by making 300-plus runs in both wins and there was a country’s record opening stand of 290 between centurions Sesaazi (137 runs off 134 balls) and Arnold Otwani (129 runs off 127 balls) against Hong Kong but all mattered less.

Jersey, who lost to Kenya by four wickets, beat the East African nation by Net Run Rate and the former will advance to play the ODI World Cup Qualifier in April.

Solace in Africa Cup

With that gone, Uganda returned strong to conquer the continent in the short code and the ACA T20 Africa Cup was one helluva of a tournament. The first of its kind after the initial edition had been curtailed and forthwith foiled by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, this was a perfect meeting for the band of brothers to finally break bread and show their true colours.

The Cricket Cranes scooped the silverware at Willowmoore Park in Benoni, South Africa on September 22 after going the entire tournament unbeaten.

In the do-or-die tournament decider, they beat ‘fast rising’ neighbours Tanzania by eight wickets in a tense final on the back of all-rounder Ali Shah scoring 98 not out to chase down a stiff winning target of 175 runs. 

Character of a champ

But despite the 100 per cent record, it hadn’t been smooth sailing for the pre-tournament favourites who made the voyage on the back of a cricket-heavy calendar and new-look side with four debutantes; Murungi, spinning all-rounder Baguma, batting maestro Ismail Munir and exciting Alpesh Ramjani.

Uganda grit their teeth for victories in the pool phase without necessarily outmuscling any opponent but being clinical enough as they grew into the tournament.

The semi-final against Kenya - a fiery Migingo Derby as always - was a low-scoring affair in a rain-shortened game to 18 overs.

Uganda restricted Kenya to 105 for 8 with young pacemen Kyewuta (4/22) and Miyagi (2/13) starring. But what was supposed to be an easy chase became an excruciating conundrum with Shah playing the saviour’s role - three successive sixes off the 17th over bowled by Lucas Olouch to bring Uganda back into contention.

Fitting finale climax

A fearless Miyagi scored the required five runs in the last over to calm the nervous Ugandan dugout. Then in the final, the Cricket Cranes played their first perfect match.

Tanzania set a commanding score of 174 for 5 on the back of captain Abhik Patwa (68) and Ivan Selemani (39) who shared an opening combo of 65 runs in the power-play with Miyagi’s first over, the second of the innings, going for 19 runs.

And when Uganda lost their openers captain Masaba (0 off 1) and Sesaazi (18 off 16) in quick fashion at 28-2 after four overs, Tanzania was in cruise control.

But Shah and vice-captain Deus Muhumuza mixed wit and muscle to take the game deep. Uganda didn’t lose any further wickets but nerves were growing with each delivery as they needed 49 runs from the last 18 balls.

Then Pakistan-born Shah went under the ball to smash 23 runs; six, six, four, six and a one off the last five balls of Ally Mpeka’s over - the 18th.

With Muhumuza (50* off 38) playing second fiddle, Shah pounded the required 16 runs in the last over off spinner Akhil Anil to fly the Cranes to the podium in an unimaginable fashion with two balls to spare.

Mahatlane and Kyewuta ran to the middle to lift their new ‘king’ Shah shoulder high like a royal, wicket-keeper Fred Achelam and emotional assistant coach Jackson Ogwang shared bare hugs with the other players to celebrate the famous victory that was produced on the backbone of a historic and unbeaten winning third wicket combo of 147 runs. 

Sesaazi joins 1000 club

The year’s icing on the cake was the East Africa T20 Cup in Rwanda this month which Uganda won after raking up nine wins and one loss in 12 matches.

Here, Sesaazi became the first Uganda to make 1000 T20 international runs after finishing as the best batsman with 304 runs in 10 innings with the best knock being an unbeaten ton of 100 runs.

His elder brother left-arm orthodox bowler Henry Ssenyondo was best with 18 scalps, one ahead of veteran spinner Frank Nsubuga and Tanzania’s off-break Ivan Selemani.

 The championship offered Mahatlane a platform to offer Lutaaya, Baguma and Kakuru T20 debuts and it leaves Uganda with greater hope going into 2023.

2022 ACA T20 AFRICA CUP

FINAL - RESULT

Tanzania 175/6 Uganda 176/2

(Uganda won by 8 wickets)

SEMIFINALS

Kenya 105/8 Uganda 107/7

(Uganda won by 3 wickets via D/L)

Botswana 146/7 Tanzania 149/6

(Tanzania won by 4 wickets)

POOL RESULTS

Ghana 133/9 Uganda 135/2

(Uganda won by 8 wickets)

Uganda 162/7 Mozambique 124/9

(Uganda won by 38 runs)

Botswana 103/8 Uganda 107/3

(Uganda won by 7 wickets)


UGANDA’S TOUR OF NAMIBIA

CASTLE LITE T20I SERIES

Uganda 127/5 Namibia 128/2

(Namibia won by 8 wickets)

Namibia 177/4 Uganda 178/3

(Uganda won by 7 wickets)

Namibia 185/7 Uganda 133/10

(Namibia won by 52 runs)

Namibia won series 2-1

CASTLE LITE 50-0VER SERIES

Uganda 68/10 Namibia 71/3

(Namibia won by 7 wickets)

Namibia 267/6 Uganda 269/7

(Uganda won by 3 wickets)

Series Tied 1-1

ICC CWC CHALLENGE LEAGUE B - ROUND II

UGANDA’S FULL RESULTS

Jersey 255/6 Uganda 193/10

Jersey won by 62 runs (with 28 balls remaining) 

Uganda 94/10 Hong Kong 96/4

Hong Kong won by 6 wickets (with 169 balls remaining) 

Bermuda 95/10 Uganda 99/2

Uganda won by 8 wickets (with 193 balls remaining)

Italy 120/10 Uganda 121/3

Uganda won by 7 wickets (with 154 balls remaining)  

Kenya 220/10 Uganda 224/7

Uganda won by 7 wickets (with 29 balls remaining)

2022 ICC T20 GLOBAL WORLD CUP QUALIFIER

Uganda 102/7 Hong Kong 98/8

Uganda won by 4 runs

Uganda 110/10 Jersey 105/9

Uganda won by 5 runs

Netherlands 187/3 Uganda 90/9

Netherlands won by 97 runs

Uganda 160/4 Papua New Guinea 161/2

Papua New Guinea won by 8 wickets

Hong Kong 87/9 Uganda 88/8

Uganda won by 2 wickets

ICC CWC CHALLENGE LEAGUE B - ROUND III

UGANDA’S FULL RESULTS

Uganda 314/4 Bermuda 160/10

Uganda won by 153 runs

Uganda 397/3 Hong Kong 179/10

Uganda won by 218 runs

Kenya 172/9 Uganda 136/10

Kenya won by 36 runs

Italy 119/10 Uganda 122/3

Uganda won by 7 wickets

Uganda 266/6 Jersey 271/5

Jersey won by 5 wickets

EAST AFRICA T20 TRI-NATION 

Uganda 185/9 Rwanda 100/10  

(Uganda won by 85 runs)

Tanzania 39/8 Uganda Null

(Match washed out)

Uganda 168/9 Rwanda 35/9 

(Uganda won by 133 runs)

Uganda 169/8 Tanzania 156/9

(Uganda won by 13 runs)

Uganda 153/7 Rwanda 56/10

(Uganda won by 97 runs)

Uganda 107/9 Tanzania 105/9

(Uganda won by 2 runs)

Uganda 132/10 Tanzania 137/5

(Tanzania won by 5 wickets)

Rwanda 57/10 Uganda 59/1

(Uganda won by 9 wickets)

Rwanda 67/10 Uganda 68/3

(Uganda won by 7 wickets)

Uganda 183/5 Tanzania 176/10

(Uganda won by 7 runs)

Uganda 108/10 Rwanda 105/10

(Uganda won by 3 runs)

AFRICA T20 CUP: TOURNAMENT AWARDS

Best Batsman: Riazat Ali Shah (Uganda) - 222 runs in 5 innings

Best Bowler: Dhruv Maisuria (Botswana) - 11 wickets

Player of Tournament: Irfan Karim (Kenya) - 101 runs in 4 innings

UGANDA’S WINNING TEAM

Players: Simon Sessazi, Brian Masaba (captain), Kenneth Waiswa, Alpesh Ramjani, Riazat Ali Shah, Deus Muhumuza (vice-captain), Fred Achelam (wicket-keeper), Pascal Murungi, Frank Nsubuga, Juma Miyagi, Henry Ssenyondo, Ismail Munir, Cosmas Kyewuta, Joseph Baguma

Team Officials: Laurence Mahatlane (Head Coach), Jackson Ogwang (Assistant Coach), Shamim Nassali (Physiotherapist), Steven Tusiime (Analyst), Jackson Kavuma (Team Manager)

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