There was no wooden spoon for the Baby Cricket Cranes and more importantly no relegation to the Africa Division II as Uganda wrapped up its bittersweet campaign at the International Cricket Council (ICC) Under 19 Africa World Cup Qualifier in Windhoek, Namibia on Sunday.
The last three countries on the log; fiery West Africans Sierra Leone, neighbouring arch-foes Kenya, who were at the last World Cup in 2018 New Zealand and bottom finishers Tanzania will have to go through the ignominy of playing Division II qualifiers next year to earn the right to play at this level again, in 2021.
But that consolation didn’t suffice to the many fans that were pregnant with expectation that this particular generation of U-19s would halt the wait to appear in another World Cup since the 2006 crop that played in the Sri Lanka edition.
It was a little too late for Uganda, even after Uganda mauled Tanzania by 8 wickets with a 226 balls remaining in the last round of this tense, thrilling and action-packed showpiece.
Uganda’s top order batsmen struggled for rhythm early on in the tournament and even when they got starts, they were guilty of not converting.
The only time it happened against Tanzania, coach Jackson Ogwang’s boys steamrolled their opponents Tanzania; making a mockery of their set score of 144 runs by chasing it down in just 12.2 overs.
Zephaniah Arinaitwe, who was the only player with a senior national team cap, oscillated between mediocrity and flashes of brilliance.
A free-scoring stroke maker Arinaitwe primarily held Uganda’s key to progress because of his prior exposure.
When he muscled a 30-ball 69 against Namibia, Uganda were in dreamland but his dismissal at 74 runs in 7.2 overs signaled the end of Uganda’s hunt for the hosts set score of 250.
Against Tanzania in what the Ugandan contingent in Windhoek termed as their ‘grande finale’, Arinaitwe showed his well-documented destructive nature with a 40-ball 102 that was littered with six boundaries and nine beautiful sixes - an innings of super timing.
Uganda’s bowling which will hardly take too much blame on this particular trip; had earlier on held fort. Opening bowler Juma Miyaji returned stellar figures of 3 for 21 in 9.3 overs and captain Frank Akankwasa’s 10-over spell of spin prized out three scalps for a measly 33 runs.
There were more positives for the Baby Cricket Cranes as Tanzania’s batsmen; Ashish Shah (40 off 91) and Aahil Jasani (28 off 56) opted to build a wall of attrition with tournament debutants; Pascal Murungi (aged 14) and Edwin Nuwagaba (aged 15), who is Arinaitwe’s younger brother, respectively snared two wickets and bowled a maiden first over in international cricket with the opponents’ innings ending in 48.3 overs.
Such was Uganda’s final flourish but it was a little too late as it will be Nigeria going to first-ever U-19 World Cup.