Uganda step it up after Namibia win

Magical leftie. Ssesazi only made his T20I debut last year but just after 17 innings crossed the 500-run mark on the current Tour of Namibia. PHOTO / INNOCENT NDAWULA

What you need to know:

  • This change in fortunes was ignited by erstwhile gaffer Steve Tikolo and re-ignited by Laurence Mahatlane who took over the reins at the back-end of 2020.

Uganda have been on an upward spiral over the past two years in both the 50-over format and the Twenty20 code.

This change in fortunes was ignited by erstwhile gaffer Steve Tikolo and re-ignited by Laurence Mahatlane who took over the reins at the back-end of 2020.

The Cricket Cranes still sit atop the log of the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricket Challenge League B after a 100 per cent record in December 2019 when they won five out of five in Oman for a haul of 10 points.

That pursuit of One-Day International (ODI) status continues in earnest in June in Kampala when Uganda host Hong Kong, Jersey, Bermuda, Italy and neighbours Kenya from June 14-28.

Sailing in T20Is

But as the Covid-19 pandemic hit hard, ICC shifted focus to the Twenty20 format, Uganda, too, changed gears to push for a better ranking on a global scale with a hindsight of ‘stealthily’ making baby steps into this November’s T20 World Cup in Australia.

From the onset, the journey to the ‘Holy Grail’ event was destined to be a mix of long, challenging, tedious and scary. But the Cricket Cranes have made it a lot more exciting by nicking pivotal wins on the road.

The Cranes tallied up the second number of wins – 16 – in a calendar year enroute to winning ICC Sub Regional T20 World Cup Qualifiers in October 2021 and ICC Africa T20 Finals in November 2021 in the Rwandan capital Kigali.

Heroic individuals

Dinesh Nakrani equalled Indian pacer Deepak Chahar’s world record of Best Bowling figures in T20Is with a haul of 6 wickets for 7 runs enroute to finishing the year as the second-highest wicket-taker in T20I cricket with 35 wickets from 22 matches.

Currently in Windhoek on a build-up tour ahead of the ICC T20 Global Qualifier in Zimbabwe (July 11-17), Laurence Mahatlane’s troops have already scripted more milestones on their fairytale journey, thus far.

Having started the previous year ranked 32nd in the world, the Cranes are currently ranked 25th and their historic 7-wicket win over 16th placed Namibia in the Castle Lite T20 Series on Saturday April 9 could see the rating further improve.

Top 20 dream

“We want to be among the top 20 T20I teams in the world by 2024,” coach Mahatlane always says during the team talks.

“That’s our dream. The World Cup that year will be held in the West Indies and because of the ICC calendar’s bumper schedule it is likely the top 20 teams will be considered for the global event.”

Class of 500

During the first game of these series when Uganda went down by 8 wickets with eight balls remaining, left-hand opening batsman Simon Ssesazi became the first Ugandan batsmen to cross 500 T20I runs in just 17 innings whereas all-rounder Riazat Ali Shah joined him that elite class after stroking an unbeaten half century in second T20I.

Nakrani also added diamond blocks to his bludgeoning reputation as a world beater with the highest score in a T20I for Uganda after a clean-hitting knock of 77 not out as Uganda drew level in the series.

Whatever happens in the series decider, which was still running by press time yesterday, Uganda know they’re in a good place but cannot afford to rest on their laurels.

The journey to Australia in November has literally just started.