Ugandan cricket keen to move on from 2017 horror

A n uncomfortable lull has settled over Uganda’s senior men cricket team. The Cricket Cranes are currently in Qatar figuring in only their second tour following last year’s astonishing relegation to the ICC World Cricket League Division Four.

The relegation was initially greeted in unsparing terms, but there has since been a sharp reversal in tone. Before departing for the tour, which will have stopovers in not just Qatar but also India, Cricket Cranes coach Steve Tikolo spoke candidly with local media. Tikolo said the preparations should be viewed more through the lens of an amplifier as opposed to clarifier. The Kenyan rang a slew of changes, with the pick seeing Davis Karashani, Arthur Kyobe and Lawrence Ssematimba overlooked.

While Karashani failed to extricate himself from academic duties at Makerere University where he is pursuing a Law degree, Kyobe and Ssematimba were in no uncertain terms deemed surplus to requirements. 
The trio’s absence has made for an increasingly feverish atmosphere in the sense that the spotlight has been put on the three crucial facets of captaincy, opening gambit and wicketkeeping.

If Zephaniah Arinaitwe attacks the new ball with the trademark aggression that continues to belie his teenage years, Kyobe’s epitaph will well and truly be authored. It will in all honesty be a tragic footnote for the left hander whose career has been dazzlingly complicated. And that is putting it mildly.

Not one to go gently in the fading of afternoon into evening, expect Kyobe to chime with renewed purpose regardless of how Arinaitwe fares on the slow wickets in Qatar and India. Kyobe is not one to cower easily and he will stake his pressing claim to relevance on everything and anything.

The Challengers opening bat doesn’t have to be at his zestful best to talk up his chances. Such is his belief; it often arouses a steely and unflappable temperament. However, like a double edged sword, the powerful strain of the belief can either be a source of happiness or unending frustration.

Mirroring the opening gambit is the question of the captaincy. The question wouldn’t arise at all but for a gruelling undergraduate degree programme at Makerere University’s School of Law. The programme has seen Karashani and the Cricket Cranes not gently bump against one other as much as clash. Owing to this, Karashani’s availability for the 2018 ICC World Cricket League Division Four tournament in Malaysia rests on a cornerstone of conjecture.

New captain?
It’s not clear whether the erstwhile Cricket Cranes skipper will be writing his exams when the tournament occupies the backend of April and first week of May. If the two fail to meet each other halfway, then a new captain will have to be named.

Such an eventuality will leave Uganda heavily depleted. Not only would Karashani’s off break thrive on the slow Malaysian wickets, but also the player has over the years retooled his game by infusing his batting with dogged determination.

The 30-year-old’s captaincy — typified by aggressive field settings — will also be sorely missed. Roger Mukasa, who was named captain for the tour of Qatar and India, may be a gung-ho batsman, but his field settings are a tad too conservative.

It is hard to tell whether an approach that entails playing safe and letting opponents make mistakes will bring vast rewards for Uganda. For now, many Cricket Cranes fans’ preoccupation is with how the captaincy will affect Mukasa’s performance with the bat.

Elsewhere, with Ssematimba out of the picture, the burden of keeping wickets in Qatar and India will be shouldered by Naeem Bardai and youngster Fred Achelam. The glovework of both players is decent enough. While Bardai contributes more than Achelam with the bat, the former’s intermittent availability doesn’t stand him in good stead.

Achelam kept wickets as Uganda lost its first match of the bilateral series with Qatar Thursday. Mukasa complained about the weather being “too heavy” and “the ball...not travelling as it does back home.” Chasing 131 for victory in a T20 match, Mukasa and Arinaitwe brought up their 50 partnership well inside 10 overs, but Cricket Cranes lacked much-needed firepower after the two explosive openers departed.

This along with other problems (a knee injury picked up by Lloyd Paternott) means — the lull, or be it uncomfortable one, notwithstanding — it is pretty much a case of back to the future for the Cricket Cranes.

By Robert Madoi

Ugandan sides could face off

In the aftermath of the Cricket Cranes debacle when they got relegated from the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricket League (WCL) Division III to IV a fortnight ago, the healing process is gradually continuing for the Ugandan cricket fraternity.

And the displays of the two Ugandan women franchises (U-19 Women & U-23 Women) at the ongoing Kwibuka Cricket For Peace T20 Tournament in Kigali, Rwanda could go a long way in ensuring there isn’t any more salt rubbed onto those (sinking feeling) wounds.

The Uganda Schools Combined XI (named U-19s by the event organisers) is the talk of the tournament after they turned on the style to notch the first upset of the meet – a one-wicket win over overwhelming favourites Kenya on Friday.

The student-packed side pulled off a stiff chase off 107 set by the full-strength Kenyan side with four balls remaining. Despite a terrific mid-order collapse, the quartet of Masaka SS’ Immaculate Nakisuyi (32 off 30), Kololo SS’ Hope Wanichan (17* off 15), Jinja SS’ Stephanie Nampiina (15 off 22) and captain Rita Musamali (12 off 14) ensured there was little left for the tail-enders as the Ugandan youngsters notched a famous win. Earlier on Thursday, the U-19s had made light work of the Rwanda National Women side when they chased down a set target of 52 with six wickets in hand and 60 balls remaining.

One win apiece 
Their seniors - the U-23 Women side – despite being short of practice have also made a good account of themselves. They went down to Kenya on Day One by five wickets but recovered in spectacular with a clinical 31-run over Rwanda.

Mary Nalule, who led the batting charts by press time with unbeaten scores of 29 and 21, has been their star thus far. And after spending at least a year in the cold, the 2012 Nile Special/Uspa Female Cricketer of the Year will certainly force the hand of the selectors with the team preparing for the ICC Africa Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier in Namibia later in September. The two Ugandan sides could face off in the final at Kicukiro Oval, but only if Rwanda claims a big scalp by upsetting regional powerhouse Kenya, who also have just one win, again. The two Ugandan sides were facing off each other in a virtual semifinal by press time.

KWIBUKA CRICKET FOR PEACE T20 TOURNAMENT
THURSDAY RESULTS
Rwanda 52/6 Uganda U-19s 53/4
(Uganda U-19s won by 6 wickets)
Uganda U-23s 78/5 Kenya 79/5
(Kenya won by 5 wickets)
FRIDAY RESULTS
Kenya 107/5 Uganda U-19s 108/9
(Uganda U-19s won by 1 wicket)
Uganda U-23s 106/6 Rwanda 75/4
(Uganda U-23s won by 31 runs)

By INNOCENT NDAWULA & DARREN ALLAN KYEYUNEA

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Ssebanja hits fastest T20 century in local history

Charity Trust Fund skipper Jonathan Ssebanja put up a stellar show as he scored the fastest century ever in Ugandan cricket. 
The batsman mixed ultimate precision with merciless hitting as he reached 100 runs off 35 balls in his team’s 67-run victory over Indian-oriented side Damani in the National Twenty20 League action at Lugogo Oval on Sunday afternoon. 
“What! Really?” a pleased, yet surprised Ssebanja exclaimed when Daily Monitor sought him out after he attained his feat. “This is amazing.” 
Ssebanja’s century, produced amidst a cacophony of noise from the sizeable crowd that witnessed the deed, is now the joint fourth-quickest ever alongside Namibia’s Louis van der Westhuizen, who attained the same feat against Kenya in unofficial T20 international on November 7, 2011.
“Like any other day, I went out and hit the ball. It was coming off the bat nicely but, I didn’t know the century was that quick,” he said. 
If Damani captain Sarfaraz Chunara felt he had taken the right decision to field first, then his teammates knew how wrong it was after Ssebanja walked onto the crease in the fifth over.
The 26-year-old’s unbeaten 38-ball innings were littered with nine boundaries and 11 huge maximums across the oval. He finished with 120 as Charity recovered from 22-2 to set 189 for 4 in 16 overs. 
“I thought my century against Rounders in Jinja last year (161 runs off 70 balls) was my best but today’s ton takes first place,” Ssebanja said. 
In reply, Damani, who had earlier shocked Nile with a six-wicket morning victory, put up 122 for 7. “This was our team’s first competitive day of action in Uganda but we played competitively all day,” Chunara said. 
And for Ssebanja? “Oh! He was just incredible today; lovely innings despite being on the losing end.” the former Nile and KICC player added.
Fastest centuries

30 balls: Chris Gayle, Royal Challengers Bangalore vs. Pune Warriors, IPL, April 23, 2013
31 balls: AB De Villiers, South Africa vs. West Indies, ODI, January 18, 2015.
34 balls: Andrew Symonds, Kent vs. Middlesex, Twenty20 Cup, July 2, 2004
35 balls: Louis van der Westhuizen, Namibia vs. Kenya, unofficial T20 international, November 7, 2011
36 balls: Corey Anderson, New Zealand vs. West Indies, ODI, January 1, 2014.

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