- Published in National League
The Unimoni National Twenty20 Cup didn’t heed to the fact that sport hates dominance as the tournament wrapped up on Sunday.
It ended with familiar sights as Aziz Damani sealed a rare season double after beating perennial Cup finalists KICC by 31 runs at the University Oval in Kyambogo on a day largely devoid of sunshine.
Now Damani players have the mandate to demand for something more than a celebratory trip to Kenya from club owner Siva Koti.
This is after they became the first club since Tornado back in 2012 to win both the T20 and limited-overs’ silverware.
“It is our best day,” Koti said moments after his common loud celebrations with the players at dusk with the trophy and a Shs2m dummy cheque from sponsors Unimoni.
Businessman Koti had won a black t-shirt on the day with a gigantic print of the face of an African lion, much to show much Damani had roared in the club cricket jungle this year.
“We have won all trophies in the year,” he said of the double, also done by the Damani ladies.
“We had planned for this and we have achieved it. We motivated the players and had good training,” he added.
The players must be happier. “It wasn’t easy but we did the basics right,” left-arm pace bowler Charles Waiswa said in front of television camera.
Damani defended the 50-Over League by going unbeaten over 14 matches but in the T20, they had been floored by Ceylon Lions via the group stages on November 24.
Somehow they found sweet revenge on Sunday when the two faced off in the morning semifinal at Lugogo, Damani successfully chasing a target of 142 runs. Lions had failed to stop them from getting 35 runs from the last 15 balls.
On the other hand in Lugogo, KICC had denied three-peat chasing Challengers by winning a low-scoring thriller by 11 runs after Suleman Sharif and Irfan Afridi had put another customary stand-out batting show. But KICC must consult their gods more if they are ever to play a T20 Cup final. It turned out that they lost a third final, like it happened in 2014 and 2016 to Challengers.
“We are not cursed,” KICC captain Hanumant Katkar said, “We didn’t do enough to win it. May be we are just a little shy of the podium but we’ll get there someday,” he said.
Obviously, once beaten, twice shy for KICC but Damani as well had other ideas having failed to unlock the championship door even with four straight semifinals.
With Damani opting to bat first, they relied on Saud Islam’s 36-ball 47 to reach a safe total of 140-8 even if KICC bowlers Falak Shar (3/26), Afridi (2/33) and Davis Karashani (2/23) had been resistant.
Then Wassim Butt began the chase for KICC like a man on a mission, the opener stroking six boundaries and five sixes but his innings ended at the 12th over with a fine knock of 68 off 37.
Unfortunately, his teammates couldn’t supplement in a more distinct way, Damani’s Bilal Hassun (2/13) and Riazat Shah (4/17) clipping their small wings smartly. Butt was ‘consoled’ with a Player of Series accolade while Sharif was Best Batsman.
By DARREN ALLAN KYEYUNE & INNOCENT NDAWULA
Aziz Damani Cricket Club! Yes, that one.
It is the name on everyone’s lips in circles of the Gentleman’s Game.
They have bossed the Jazz Safari National League season like never before. Their unbeaten run of 10 wins in as many defines their prowess.
They are 18 points clear at the top of the eight-team log with a maximum 60 points. That statistic has a motto: ‘Do not mess with us,’.
Damani has beaten every team and their cruise sees them now a win away from their second league title in two years.
Even if there are four matches to play, Damani only need to beat second-placed Kutchi Tigers at Lugogo Oval today to be affirm the yellow and green ribbons on the trophy.
Allure of 100% record
“We would love to finish unbeaten if possible but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” Damani’s boss Siva Koti stated after last weekend’s 143-run win over Challengers in Entebbe.
“So we would love to secure the title first,” he added.
Knowing the mathematics, Tigers will hope to roar at the right time and stop what seems to be untouchable.
Tigers’ skipper Alphesh Hirani knows there is little they can do to stop Damani’s league success.
Tigers can pounce
Little wonder he could afford a phone chat with Siva after last Sunday’s action.
But Hirani knows the Tigers can put on hold to Damani’s early title celebrations or most importantly, punch a hole into their solid bulging balloon encrypted: ‘the invincible ones’.
The rest of the league sent Challengers to stop Damani last weekend but their batsmen Hamu Kayondo, Arthur Kyobe and Kamal Shahzad didn’t click in partnerships.
Now Damani’s bowling unit has to deal with a Tigers’ batting line-up that has Ronak Patel, who hit an unbeaten 82-ball 105 century in their 185-run win over Premier last Sunday.
Most of Damani’s players form the core of the senior national team - The Cricket Cranes - so they know what to expect and how to plot for another finisher in left-hander Dinesh Nakrani. Ankit Patel’s qualities cannot be overlooked.
Harmless chasing pack
Damani’s captain Ghulam Hunzai knows if they skipped the Tigers’ hurdle, neither a depleted and off-form Tornado Bee, struggling Ceylon Lions and youthful Strikers can hurt their flawless streak.
JAZZ SAFARI NATIONAL LEAGUE
TODAY’S FIXTURES - DIV. ONE -10.30am
Kutchi Tigers vs. Aziz Damani, Lugogo
Premier vs. Tornado Bee, Kyambogo
Ceylon Lions vs. Strikers, Entebbe
Avengers vs. KC Budo, Budo
Nile vs. Wanderers, Jinja
LEAGUE TABLE STANDINGS
Team P W L NR Pts NRR
Aziz Damani 10 10 0 0 60 3.16
Kutchi Tigers 10 7 3 0 42 1.09
Challengers 11 6 5 0 35 0.61
Strikers 9 4 4 1 25 0.25
Tornado Bees 9 4 4 1 25 -0.76
KICC 11 4 7 0 22 -1.15
Ceylon Lions 11 3 8 0 18 -0.26
Premier 11 2 9 0 11 -2.80
*NR denotes No Result
* NRR denotes Net Run Rate
It will take youthful club Strikers a little while to recover from their own mistakes that saw them lose for the second time in the Jazz Safari National League on Sunday.
They were right on the money in pursuit of Kutchi Tigers’ set target of 248 but lost seven wickets in a space of 25 runs to loss by 88 runs at the University Oval in Kyambogo.
“We just can’t believe it,” disappointed Strikers’ opener Zephaniah Arinaitwe told Daily Monitor.
Arinaitwe was the best batsman on the day with half-ton of 86 runs off 63 balls. “We should have won. We did our best but at some point, we heavily paid for lack of game awareness,” he added. Tigers had set 247-8 after the allotted 50 overs thanks to Dinesh Nakrani’s 77 off 95 and Anup Kerai’s 42 off 51 in front of Richard Agamire (2/45) and Frank Akankwasa’s (2/33) bowling resistance. Even if Arinaitwe gave Strikers a fine start, Alphesh Hirani and company remained firm.
Only Perry Wazombe (25 off 30) and Simon Okecho (11 off 17) could afford double figures, Strikers crumbling fast under Nakrani’s controlled medium pacers as justified by his parsimonious figures of 7/26.
It implies Tigers took their tally to 18 points from six outings while Lions have 21 from the same number of matches. Elsewhere, Aziz Damani got it easy following their opponents’ Challengers’ frail batting in Lugogo, winning for the fifth time in as many outings by five wickets after meeting a target of 126 runs inside 24.2 overs with Saud Islam’s 59-ball 50.
PAST MEN’S LEAGUE WINNERS
2017: Aziz Damani
2016: Tornado Bee
2015: Tornado Bee
2014: Tornado Bee
2013: Tornado Bee
2011: Patidar Samaj
KAMPALA. In 2016, Tornado Bee became the first club to win four straight championships in the Jazz Safari National Cricket League.
However, their run was ended by Aziz Damani who won the title last year on the first time of asking. Damani was officially crowned as the 2017 champions during the League Awards’ ceremony at Lugogo Oval on Sunday.
It only felt a dream come true for Damani Club CEO Siva Koti Reddy who started the team in 2015. “We are very happy,” he said after lifting the trophy with captain Ghulam Hunzai on a rather cold evening after their UCA Super Cup match with 2017 Division Two kings Premier.
On the same evening, Kutchi Tigers’ Raghvani Shantilal was crowned as Player of Series thanks to his best batsman figures of 554 runs in 13 innings. Each year, the trophy cabinet grown bigger for Damani. Koti’s interest grew in the game after their franchise won the 2015 Night Cricket Championship.
They won the 2016 Kishore Pabari Memorial T20 Cup, 2016 Division Two and the 2017 Super Cup, meaning their topflight success is no fluke. Also, the ladies’ side Aziz Damani-Masaka SS also lifted the Women’s Division Two championship.
But Damani now wants to erase Tornado Bee’s records. “Definitely, the target is to win the Championship for both men and women,” Siva stated after confirming three new signings.
“Tornado Bee won four in a row but we want to win the next four.”
If anything, the signings of budding wicket-keeper Fred Achelam and left-arm seamer Charles Waiswa as well as in-form spinner Henry Ssenyondo from Challengers imply the huge intent by the yellow brigade.
Achelam replaces Arnold Otwani who left for Charity Trust Fund, was the best wicket-keeper last season with 20 dismissals.
Like many Asian-oriented clubs, Aziz Damani has attained commendable success within the short spell spent in the Ugandan cricket ecosystem thus far.
Only formed two years ago, Aziz Damani Cricket Club boast of four honours.
The latest is the UCA Super Cup title after the 2016 Division Two champions beat topflight kings Tornado Bee by five wickets won at Lugogo Oval on Saturday.
The challenge with most of these clubs is they fade away with time and some go extinct like Destroyers. However, Aziz Damani CEO Siva Koti Reddy opines otherwise.
“We want to stay here for a long haul like Tornado and Wanderers,” Koti said shortly after the win over Tornado Bee.
He went on to further announce Damani will become a sports club under a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) status and stretch its tentacles to other disciplines like tennis, football and badminton.
“Our plan is to adopt a school which is not under good conditions and make it with better facilities like good toilets and proper benches,” Koti explained.
“We intend to get them a good playing ground which in turn can encourage youngsters in villages to play. In 2018, we hope to have laid ground for a football club that can compete in the local league tiers.”
Shortly after, Koti unveiled club new signings in Kenneth Waiswa from Nile and Emmanuel Isaneez from Patidar Samaj. “Satisfaction will come if we win the topflight league this season.” Koti added, similar words echoed by club’s senior player and Cricket Cranes vice captain Brian Masaba.
Prior, medium pacer Waiswa had picked 3 for 20 and Kenyan veteran Steve Tikolo snared 3/16 as Damani bowled out Tornado Bee for 106 runs in 40 overs.
The latter returned an unbeaten knock of 32 runs off 33 balls to give Damani victory with five wickets in hand.
Damani is the most sponsored club with partners in Gittoes Pharmaceuticals, Duke Water, ABC, Ketan Shukla, Balaji Group East Africa, SR Group, Dembe Enterprises, KLR Uganda and Subhagruha India PVT.
UCA SUPER CUP
Tornado Bee 106/10 A. Damani 107/5
(Aziz Damani won by five wickets)
AZIZ DAMANI TROPHY CABINET
2017: UCA Super Cup winners
2016: Kishor Pabari Memorial champions
2016: UCA National League Division II winners
2015: Night Cricket Tournament champions
By INNOCENT NDAWULA & DARREN ALLAN KYEYUNE