Legend Tikolo back as Cricket Cranes coach

The search for a new gaffer by Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) is as good as over.

Initiated in Nairobi soon after being sacked by Cricket Kenya, brokered in Zimbabwe where he was Team Manager for the Kenya Ladies at the just-concluded ICC Africa Women World T20 Qualifier, legendary Steve Tikolo flies into town today to put pen to paper and take over as Cricket Cranes coach on a one-year renewable contract.

Daily Monitor has learnt that UCA zeroed down on Tikolo after a vetting process that started in April involving a handful of renowned tacticians from India, South Africa, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe among others.

This will not be Tikolo’s first time to tutor Uganda after he sat in the dugout as Martin Suji’s assistant/batting coach when the Cricket Cranes won the Pepsi T20 African Premier League (APL) in 2012 and sailed through seamlessly to earn ICC World Cricket League Division II qualification in Bermuda 2013.

He also steered local franchise Rwenzori Warriors to the defunct East Africa Cricket League title after beating Kenya Kongonis during his tenure. But being head coach this time round, the 44-year-old has his plate full with a bumper schedule awaiting him.

After meeting the UCA Board on Thursday, Tikolo is expected to meet all the players vying for national team slots before embarking on a tedious project of scouting for new talent across the country. He will then select a provisional squad basing on the players’ performances in the league and net sessions he will have conducted in Jinja and Lugogo.

Uganda is eager to rub shoulders with the ‘big boys’ again when the ICC WCL Division III – a tournament UCA has already bid to host, takes center stage in January 2017.

Selected former coaches 
Aug 2014- Jan 2015: Peter Kirsten 
April 2014–Aug 2014: Davis Turinawe
July 2013 – Feb 2014: Johan Rudolph
May 2013 – July 2013: Henry Okecho

Tikolo at a glance

Name: Stephen Ogonji Tikolo (44 years old)
Place: Nairobi, Kenya
Nationality: Kenyan
Nickname: Gunnzie
Batting style: Right-handed
Bowling style: Right-arm off spin
Role: Batting all-rounder
ODI debut: February 18, 1996 vs India
Last ODI: Jan 23, 2014 vs. Netherlands 
Teams coached: Kenya, Kenya U-19, Kenya Women, Uganda, Rwenzori Warriors (Uganda), Southern Rocks (Zimbabwe).

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Okecho believes Baby Cricket Cranes can reach third WC

Coach Henry Okecho believes Team Uganda has the ability to win the imminent six-nation ICC U-19 World Cup Global Qualifier and secure the remaining ticket to next year’s Youth World Cup in Bangladesh.
“We have a very good chance,” the tactician told Daily Monitor. “But only if the boys play to their potential,” he said after releasing his final 14-man squad for the October 14-23 event in Malaysia.
Despite the unbearable omission of vital Kololo SS pair Rogers Olipa and Siraj Nsubuga who have to sit Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) examinations, five schoolmates made the cut.

“We will surely miss both of them but their voids are well filled,” he said. Leg spinner Simon Okecho will cover former U-16 captain Nsubuga as Collins Byaruhanga does for Olipa.
Aside from Byaruhanga, reigning Pespi Schools Cricket Week champions Busoga College Mwiri have Zephania Arinaitwe, Collins Okwalinga and David Wabwire.
“Overall, it is a well-balanced team with talented players who have the x-factor you need,” Okecho added.
Schools Cricket Week MVP Kenneth Waiswa, Kampala Institute of Cricket Clubs’ (KICC) opening pair of Abdallah Lubega and John Gabula are other notable inclusions.

With assistance from Lubega, Derrick Bakunzi will lead the side that seeks to return to the final showpiece for the first time since 2006 against favourites Nepal, USA, Ireland and Papua New Guinea. Baby Cranes last played at the WC in 2004 (Bangladesh) and 2006 (Sri Lanka).

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Cricket Cranes intent to skip Botswana hurdle at Africa T20 championship

New Cricket Cranes skipper Brian Masaba is a man known for few words, serenity and precise judgment.

After guiding a new-look Team Uganda to an opening eight-wicket victory over Tanzania on Friday, Masaba believes his side can go on and produce a miraculous show at the Pepsi ICC Africa Division One Twenty20 Championship in Benoni, South Africa. 
“In spite of the obvious lack of experience in our side, we are still going out to win every game,” Masaba told Sunday Monitor via phone from the team base at Garden Court in Johannesburg.

“That’s how the game of T20 should be played,” the former U-19 skipper said. Such mentality is what Masaba will instill in his teammates today when they face Botswana in tournament Day Three at the Sahara Willowmoore Oval in Gauteng.

“We want to take one game at a time and slowly win back full trust from our fans back home,” he said. There could be bowling changes against the Karabo Modise-led side with Masaba opting for more spin as the wickets offer much turn.

And further, all debutants impressed coach Peter Kirsten in the victory over the Tanzanians which has ignited a growing aura of confidence in the team camp. 
Particularly, the South African tactician lauded Kamal Shahzad’s work rate after he took 1/32 as Tanzania set 128 for 7.

However, spinners Frank Nsubuga (2/12) and Henry Ssenyondo (2/8) stood out most with pivotal spells including the prize wicket of Abhik Patwa who was dropped early and went on to clobber four boundaries and five maximums for a 51-ball 73. Uganda’s reply received an early blessing when Arthur Kyobe (34 off 22) was dropped in the third over (23-0). The left-hander went on to put up an opening stand of 60 with his Challengers’ counterpart Arnold Otwan.

The latter briefly shared the crease with Shahzad (13 run-a-ball) and Otwan earned a precious maiden international half-ton of 51* off 40 deliveries in a match-winning 43-run third-wicket combo with explosive Jonathan Ssebanja (29 off 13) in the 15th over.
More decent batting against the Batswana could illuminate the Cricket Cranes’ chances in the quest for a berth at the ICC Global T20 Qualifier due Scotland from July 9 August 2.

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Ssempijja ready for Cricket Cranes job

Lawrence Ssempijja is an elated lad ever since he first made the cut to the 14-man Cricket Cranes side that will represent at the ICC Africa Division One Twenty20 Qualifier from March 28 - April 4 in Benoni, South Africa.
“Playing for the national team has always been my dream,” the Charity Trust Fund all-rounder told Daily Monitor recently. “This is my opportunity that I take with both hands.”
Ssempijja’s breakthrough came at the expense of seven senior players who were dropped after the failed January ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Division Two showpiece in Namibia. 
And the Senior Six vacationist knows he has to put in a great deal of effort and consistent performances if he is to keep his place even after South Africa. 
“I need to work harder than before if I am to stay on the national front until my late age,” said Ssempijja - a fanatic of legendary Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar.
“I made it to the national side because of my discipline and work ethic and for that matter, I need to perfect both aspects.”
Ssempijja’s decent variation of medium pace deliveries makes him a key talent for the team. He hopes to help Uganda earn one of the two available tickets to the Global T20 Qualifier in Scotland. 
“Ability to offer diverse deliveries can help keep us up the ranks. And even though I am bowler, I can bat and score runs while I fully experience what Team Uganda endures at the global stage,” 
Voted MVP at the 2013 ICC U-19 Africa WC Qualifiers, Ssempijja first held the bat and ball 10 years ago while at East Kololo P/S. He is the third member of his family to make the national folder after mentor Ronald Ssemanda and assistant captain Henry Ssenyondo. 
“Both of them have encouraged right from the time I was young and I believe I haven’t let them down.” His sibling Simon Ssesaazi is a reserve player for the Benoni-bound side.

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Cricket Cranes seek flying start at Africa T20s

 It probably wasn’t appealing enough in the eyes of many as new skipper Brian Masaba was handed the national flag by National Council of Sports official David Katende during the Cricket Cranes’ flag-off at Lugogo to the Pepsi ICC Africa Twenty20 Championship on Wednesday.

The bitter truth is that the fraternity at large is either yet to brush off the recent failure at January ICC World Cricket League (ICC) Division II tourney in Namibia.

Or, many a fan were yet to offer full confidence to the faces in a new-look team that Masaba leads at this weekend’s continental showpiece in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“After that substandard show in Namibia, it is difficult to win over our fans that easily again,” Masaba concurred before the team flew out yesterday.

“But I urge the fans to count on us,” the batting all-rounder said. “The past is behind us and our vibrant side is ready to play and restore the pride of Ugandan cricket.” 

To quickly affirm his words, Masaba must mastermind an opening victory for the 2011 champions against southern neighbours Tanzania in Benoni this morning. “Once the players apply themselves as expected, we will be on course for a decent show,” added the former U-19 skipper. 
“Our two months of hard work must be vindicated with perfect start against the Tanzanians,” said Varinder Singh, one of the four debutants. 
“This is the time for some of us to perform and stamp our mark at the bigger stage,” another new comer Derrick Bakunzi, the current U-19 captain, chipped in.

With experienced Abram Mutyagaba having withdrawn from the set-up in the 1th hour, 2013’s tournament best batsman Arthur Kyobe (221 runs) will likely open the innings with 18-year-old Abdallah Lubega, who is having a second crack in the senior side after his short-lived first outing in 2011.

But Uganda must keenly watch Tanzania’s skipper Hamisi Abdallah, top order batsman Abhik Patwa, Athuman Kakonzi and enterprising all-rounder Benson Mwita.

The latter emerged the best bowler with an economy rate of 7.42 and 15 wickets as Tanzania finished third behind Uganda at the 2013 edition held in Kampala.

Uganda vs. Tanzania 
Namibia vs. Ghana 
Kenya vs. Botswana 

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Feeble batting, butter fingers cost Cricket Cranes campaign

The batting nightmares have lived with Uganda for eternity. Save for the fruitful campaign at the Pepsi Division III International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricket League (WCL) in Kuala Lumpur last October, scores of 200 plus have largely remained a dream for the Cricket Cranes.
If they were four forward steps taken then, more than the same number have been taken trodden backwards now as Uganda failed miserably to string together any batting scorecard of 200 runs at the just-concluded global meet. The highest score for coach Peter Kirsten’s boys was 188 all out in the 111-run crushing defeat to Canada on January 21.
Pretoria-based Phillemon Mukobe was the hero in captain Frank Nsubuga’s spiritless batting arsenal with 188 runs at an average of 37. And the 28-year-old wicket-keeper’s decision to retire, because of work and family obligations later this year, will leave the team poor and hit its composition very hard.
Vice-captain Brian Masaba being second in rating to Mukobe with just 100 runs at an average of 20 per innings just continues to show how irresponsible the batsmen have been. A one-man or even two-man show was never going to be enough to pull Uganda through.

Discipline demanded
On Windhoek wickets largely tailor-made for batting but at times deteriorating fast because of new layers and offering some palpable assistance in the first and last hours on each day, discipline was demanded but the batsmen didn’t show enough of it. A display full of ghastly, ill-judged shots followed by glum expressions after dismissals with some horrific umpiring decisions is what was witnessed.
The tail-end of Patrick Ochan (64), Frank Nsubuga (38) and Jonathan Ssebanja (52) was always left with more than a half of the innings to counter – a tall order by any stretch of imaginations that equally left Kirsten with a strain and wry smirk on his face.
“I am at loss of words,” said the 59-year-old Gaffer. “The senior batsmen haven’t come to the party. There was no mental application and their shot selection has been poor. Considering the preparation we had, I am surprised and disappointed with our performances. It has not been a good show.” But if the batting woes deepened from bad to worse as justified by the 79 all out against Netherlands that was flattered by 22 extras, the fielding or lack of its proper execution left a bitter taste in the team’s contingent.

Poor fielding
Ugandan teams were renowned for their exceptional catching and ground fielding but this side is letting those standards slide. Slow-left armer Henry Ssenyondo, the best bowler of the campaign with nine scalps, swallowed two stunning efforts off his own bowling in the nerve-wrecking two-run win against Nepal. Opening batsman Roger Mukasa then dived forward to his left in the mid-wicket region to spectacularly dismiss Canada skipper Jimmy Hansra on 31 off Ssenyondo’s bowling as the North Americans crumbled from 75 for 5 to 140 all out. 
That reading makes attractive bookends to Uganda’s fielding in Namibia but bookends, most of the time, tell nothing. The most revealing material lies in the pages that sit in between and throughout the business end of the tournament Uganda’s fielding scripts made for poor reading.
Butter fingers were the order of the day and at least three catches were spilled per innings. Run outs were also missed and some ground fielding was suspect. Each of those misfields was punished as Nitish Kumar, dropped on 16, went on to make 104 for Canada – the only century of the tournament.
Against Namibia, Merwe Erasmus was dropped on 9 and he went on to blaze a match-winning 62, then Alex Obanda was put down on 0 against Kenya, the hard-hitting opener went on to score 32. The culprits were many including some of the team’s ‘best’ fielders.
“The difference between these teams and us is very thin. We belong in Division II and there is no doubt about it. We just have to rethink our strategies proper and fight the stage fright.”
And to think, the damage could have been limited will haunt the players for years to come as the team stays in Division III after a third failed attempt to make the Division II grade.
Uganda need to combat their batting fears, initiate a freewill spirit and starting exhibiting clinical shifts on a back-to-back basis as shown they can pull off in the easy 8-wicket win against Canada that helped them avoid the wooden spoon.


Collated results for Uganda
Uganda 156/10 Nepal 154/10
Uganda won by two runs
Uganda 188/9 Namibia 189/6
Namibia won by four wickets
Uganda 129/10 Kenya 130/5
Kenya won by five wickets
Canada 293/6 Uganda 182/10
Canada won by 111 runs
Uganda 79/10 Netherlands 80/3
Netherlands won by 7 wickets
Fifth place playoff final
Canada 140/10 Uganda 144/2
Uganda won by 8 wickets 
Final Team Standings
1. Netherlands (4 wins, 2 losses)
2. Namibia (4 wins, 2 losses)
3. Kenya (3 wins, 3 losses)
4. Nepal (3 wins, 3 losses)
5. Uganda (2 wins, 4 losses)
6. Canada (2 wins, 4 losses)
Top 4 batsmen
Phillemon Mukobe 188 runs
Brian Masaba 100 runs
Arthur Kyobe 99 runs
Roger Mukasa 85 runs
Top 4 bowlers
Henry Ssenyondo 9 wickets
Jonathan Ssebanja 9 wickets
Frank Nsubuga 7 wickets
Patrick Ochan 7 wickets

After opening win over Nepal, Cricket Cranes lose to Namibia

It’s time to reflect. After the opening two days of the Pepsi Division II International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricket League (WCL) produced mixed results, the Cricket Cranes will use today’s rest day as valuable time to re-strategise and plot afresh.

Coach Peter Kirsten’s boys clinched a sensational last ball two-run win against Nepal on the opening day (Saturday) in a low-scoring thriller at Affies Park. But their progress was immediately checked by Namibia, who coasted home with four wickets in hand and 22 balls spare at the scenic Wanderers Oval yesterday.

“The reserve day gives us a chance to rectify our mistakes and improve,” captain Frank Nsubuga told Daily Monitor. Top on Nsubuga and coach Peter Kirsten’s priority list will be seeking a quick remedy to the failure of the side to post a defendable par score of 200, which was the catalyst as Uganda strolled to a successful campaign at the Division III event in Kuala Lumpur last October.

“We came through against Nepal because we studied the conditions better and knew that the new wicket at Affies Park would take more spin later in the day. Our low score against them was justified. Then we batted better against Namibia but still didn’t get 200 and more so we put down two would have been match-changing catches.”

Dropped catch
Nsubuga was one of the ‘butter fingers’ culprits dropping Sarel Burger on 3 at extra cover with the scoreboard reading 87/4 in 25 overs and Uganda still much within victory sight.

Burger went on to anchor the innings with an unbeaten match-winning 37 off 71. Earlier Abram Mutyagaba, standing at first slip, had spilled an edge off Merwe Erasmus swishing blade with the scores on 29 for 2 and with the Namibian having only 9 runs to his credit.

The top order batsman rode his luck to notch a half-ton of 62 off 91 and forthwith take the Man-of-Match award. But coach Kirsten says fate is still in Uganda’s hands to decide their destiny. “One win and one loss is not the worst of starts,” said the South African tactician.

We believe we can improve and the top order batsmen can hit proper gear. Our performances in the next four games will decide where we want Uganda Cricket to be in the next four years.”

By Innocent Ndawula

Batting concerns remain for cricket side

Renown Hollywood actor Arnold Schwarzenegger once said: ‘Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.’
It’s this motivational quote that will ring a loud bell in the ears of the men’s national cricket team players when at the gruesome ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Division II tournament that bowls off on Saturday. 
The Cricket Cranes carried batting concerns to Windhoek last night after failing to impress in two warm-up matches played as they finalised preparations in South Africa’s beautiful city of Cape Town. 
During the 10-day bootcamp that involved a series of training sessions and adventurous team bonding, coach Peter Kirsten’s side was far from convincing in last Thursday’s seven-wicket loss to Western Province Amateur XI and Tuesday’s 17-run win over the Boland Amateur X1 at Vineyard Oval in Newlands. 
“The team is ticking most of the boxes but we still have some unfinished business in the batting,” skipper Frank Nsubuga admitted in a telephone interview with Daily Monitor from the team base at Park Inn Foreshore Hotel yesterday.
“We are strong in bowling and fielding but the hitches we face with the bat must be countered.” 
Top-order trio of Arthur Kyobe, Roger Mukasa and Hamu Kayondo made no much impact as only assistant captain Brian Masaba stood out with respective scores of 57 (off 91) and 23 (off 34) enroute to setting scores below 170 runs in both matches. 
“A less than 200-run score offers us no chance to win a single match on the fast pitches in Namibia,” Nsubuga noted. “Good partnerships depend on how the innings start and so the top-order ought to build momentum. We need to score more than 200 runs.”

Cricket warm-up

Uganda 153/10 Boland X1 136/10
(Uganda won by 17 runs)

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