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.

PEPSI ICC AFRICA TWENTY20 CHAMPIONSHIP
TODAY’S FIXTURES – BENONI (10am)
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.

ICC WORLD CRICKET LEAGUE DIV. 2

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

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

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Cricket Cranes off to Cape Town

The Cricket Cranes’ preparations for the Division II International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricket League (WCL) tourney due January 17-24 in Windhoek, Namibia negotiate the final bend with a 10-day boot camp in Cape Town, South Africa starting today.
While in Cape Town, the team will get a chance to train at the ultra modern Newlands Park that is currently hosting the third Test between South Africa and West Indies, catch the final two days of the riveting Test and watch the Twenty20 blitz between the two giants on Friday (Jan. 9).

Coach Peter Kirsten’s boys will also have training sessions at Western Province Academy (WPA) and play three rubbers against WPA and Western Province XI but the peak of the boot camp will be presence of legendary South African Test player Gary Kirsten.
Peter and Gary are half brothers but the latter is more famous because he ended his career as South Africa’s most capped player and top Test runs-scorer (7,289) when he called it a day in March 2004 against New Zealand in Wellington.
Gary has also built a niche as a successful coach as he is credited for having taken powerhouse India to the top of the Test rankings during his stint, which ended, quite fittingly, with India’s World Cup triumph in 2011.
Gary, on the invitation of Peter, is scheduled to watch over a couple training sessions, have one-on-one sessions with the players and offer motivational speeches on Jan 13 and 14.
“He (Gary) played this game at the very top level and his presence in our camp is a big boost. He has done it all before and will be easy to believe,” assistant coach Michael Ndiko told Daily Monitor after National Council of Sports (NCS) general secretary Jasper Aligawesa flagged off the team yesterday at the NCS Headquarters in Lugogo.
Skipper Frank Nsubuga, too, made a bold vow about the team’s goals. 
“We have been working hard and are looking forward to meet and work with Gary for the next 10 days. We promise to work hard and ensure that we don’t get relegated back to Division III.”

ICC WORLD CRICKET LEAGUE DIVISION TWO - WINDHOEK
UGANDA FIXTURES - JANUARY 17-24
Jan 17: Uganda vs. Nepal (Wanderers Affies)
Jan 18: Namibia vs. Uganda (Wanderers)
Jan 19: Rest/reserve day
Jan 20: Kenya vs. Uganda (United)
Jan 21: Canada vs. Uganda (Wanderers Affies)
Jan 22: Rest/reserve day
Jan 23: Netherlands vs. Uganda (Wanderers)
Jan 24: Playoff finals

TEAM UGANDA FOR NAMIBIA:
F. Nsubuga (captain), D. Karashani, H. Kayondo, A. Kyobe, B. Masaba (vice captain), D. Muhumuza, R. Mukasa, P. Mukobe, A. Mutyagaba, P. Ochan, D. Ruyange, J. Ssebanja, L. Ssematimba, H. Ssenyondo 
OFFICIALS: A. Meya (Team Manager), P. Kirsten (Coach/ Technical Director), M. Ndiko (Trainer), T. Le Roux (Team Physiotherapist)

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Cricket Cranes edge Takashinga

The Cricket Cranes rallied to snatch victory from the glaring jaws of defeat as they overcame Zimbabwe outfit Takashinga by 23 runs in a low-scoring thriller at Kyambogo Oval yesterday.

It was a day of two insipid batting displays but it will be the Ugandans, who despite clinching the rubber, that will want to look themselves in the mirror and forthwith shed some skin.

Uganda set 99 all out in 36.1 overs with under-fire wicketkeeper Lawrence Ssematimba (20 off 57), former skipper Davis Karashani (18 off 37) and vice-captain Brian Masaba (13 off 34) crawling to double figures as the slow-bowling trio of Sikandar Raza Butt, Chamu Chibhabha and Tinotenda Mutombodzi claimed two scalps apiece.

And with the Ugandan fans thinking their team was going to face a successive defeat, captain Frank Nsubuga had different ideas.

The 34-year-old introduced himself into the attack early in the second over and immediately bowled a wicket maiden claiming the scalp of Kudzai Maunze (1).

He finished with miserly figures of 6 for 16 in the allotted 10 overs that also comprised of three maidens as the tourists were bundled out for 76 in 31.5 overs.

Nsubuga’s other victims were Odecious Manje (11), Butt (18), and Shingirai Masakadza (2), Regis Chakabva (5) and Timycen Maruma (0).

Left-arm spinner Henry Ssenyondo (3/21 in 9.5) and Karashani (1/20) supplemented their skipper as Uganda pulled off a nervy win on a turf that offered palpable assistance to the bowlers. 
The tour which wraps up on Sunday resumes tomorrow.

TAKASHINGA TOUR OF UGANDA
Yesterday’s result - 50 overs
Uganda 99/10 Takashinga 76/10
Uganda won by 23 runs
Tomorrow – 50 over game
Emerging Uganda vs. Takashinga, Lugogo
Sunday – 50-over game
UCA Chairman’s XI vs. Takashinga, Kyambogo

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