Unimoni T20 success seals best season for Aziz Damani

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.

Best day
“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.

Challengers denied
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.

Captain fantastic
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

Holders Challengers hunted as Unimoni National T20 Cup ends

After two months of action, the Unimoni National Twenty20 Cup is left with just three matches to climax. 
Who will win it? That’s the question that three-peat chasing Challengers, two-time finalists KICC, no-nonsense Aziz Damani and fiery Ceylon Lions must answer when the quartet negotiates each other’s hurdle today. 
The semifinal line-up is structured in a way that seasoned T20 contenders KICC and Lions want to wrestle serial Cup winners Challengers and Aziz Damani respectively.

Defending champions Challengers are looking no further than a third successive title and a record fourth T20 gong in five years.
To test their mettle first is KICC this morning whom they meet at Lugogo in a repeat of the 2014 final.

“Our batsmen are on form,” KICC skipper Hanumant Katkar chest-thumped after they defeated Strikers in the quarterfinals last weekend.
Wassim Butt and Suleman Sharif have held their bats high while spinning trio of Davis Karashani, Frank Nsubuga and Irfan Afridi is capable wreaking havoc like the latter did with figures of 7 for 15 seven days ago. “How we play on the day is what matters most,” Katkar offered. 
But Challengers will be a tougher nut to crack for KICC having added Zimbabwean imports Timycen Maruma and Shingirai Masakadza to their arsenal.

Arthur Kyobe, Hamu Kayondo and Kamal Shahzad know what to do when on the crease irrespective of the amount of incentives that Challengers’ proprietor Vaheed Mohammed has in stock for them.“We want three in a row but we want our cricket to speak first,” said Kyobe, leaving his opinion door so ajar during the interview. But they can only earn Vaheed’s prize if they beat KICC and then win the final in Kyambogo against the victor between Damani and Lions.

Beating Damani
Now this is a repeat of the November 24 group stage encounter where 2012 runners-up Lions beat Siva Koti’s Damani by 11 runs. But things have drastically changed since Damani’s returned from international duty in Oman.
Similarly, Lions’ boss Ruwan Jayaratne has not been shy, adding Sri Lankan top youngster batsman Malindu Maduraga and Kenyan Alex Obanda to his ranks.
Obanda made a 38-ball 102 ton while Maduranga struck 42 off 24 as they beat Jinja SS last Sunday and the boss seemed satisfied.
“We are bringing two more Kenyans and definitely going for the trophy,” Jayaratne, also the team’s opener, stated.

But Damani has won every trophy on offer bar this one. And this being a fourth semifinal in as many years, they want to go big. “We just have a few things to get better from the Tornado Bee (quarterfinal) game and we’ll be on track,” Damani’s all-rounder Riazat Ali Shah stated.
Mir Afzal and Saud Islam have furnished the batting of Damani’s immovable wall way much this season.
In the end, fireworks in Lugogo and a classic in Kyambogo, lights out! The climax is certainly a must watch.

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Unimoni T20 Cup quarters Contenders out to lay claim

Aziz Damani’s 100 percent record enroute to the Jazz Safari National League crown earlier this year certainly did not go down well with the rest of the clubs.

Sport hates dominance. With Damani up the throats of many having won the men and women’s limited-overs’ titles plus the Mehta Twenty20 Premier League, a rare sweep beckons.

That’s if they win the Unimoni National Twenty20 Cup which is at the quarterfinal stage now.

However, with the overwhelming yet unusual deployment of foreign stars by other teams, Damani will have their work cut out.
The league champions Damani face a bitter rival in Tornado Bee at the University Oval in Kyambogo this afternoon in a familiar T20 quarterfinal. Specks of bother about Damani come with their record that has seen them play a final and two semi-finals in the last three editions.
“Our goal is to first get into the final then we take it from there,” Damani’s vice captain Brian Masaba stated. “Tornado Bee is hurting and they can be a dangerous side so we are not taking anything for granted.”

Damani has Jamaican Javian McFarlane available but Tornado Bee has recalled Kenyan old guards Obuya brothers Collins and David to back up Roger Mukasa, Deus Muhumuza and Australian Mitch Horrocks among others. “T20 has not been our hunting ground over the years. But there is a chance to fight for silverware this season,” said Tornado Bee captain Jeremy Kibuukamusoke. “We have lost a bit of our thunder but the team with the most perfect strategy on the day will win,” he added.

Over the years, no side has executed better T20 strategies than holders Challengers who are on course to make a three-peat and four title in five years. Having finished second in Group A behind KICC, they now face stubborn Kutchi Tigers at Lugogo this afternoon.

Short code exponents
And they are not taking any chances. Club proprietor Mohammed Vaheed has brought in experienced Zimbabwean ODI players in captain Hamilton Masakadza and Timycen Maruma.

Also, Indian Abdulahad Malik of India Premier League (IPL) franchise Rasthajan Royals is here. “We are going for a treble implying a bigger task on our hands and we have great inclusions,” opening batsman Arthur Kyobe disclosed.

Kyobe is set to open with Hamu Kayondo. Malik, who boasts of the highest ever fourth wicket partnership (202*) with Manpreet Juneja will bat at three and Masakadza is expected to walk in at four. Tigers’ captain Alphesh Hirani remained tight-lipped but they have quietly brought in India-born Kenyans and retain a livewire in Dinesh Nakrani and 2015 winning captain Ankit Patel in their ranks.

The foreign legion doesn’t stop because after topping Group B, Ceylon Lions are now interested in the silverware and have brought in a Sri Lankan and Kenyan Alex Obanda to face Jinja SSS at Kyambogo this morning. In Lugogo, two-time finalists KICC are banking on high-flying batsmen Wassim Butt and Suleman Sharif when they meet explosive and brave youngsters of Strikers.

By DARREN ALLAN KYEYUNE & INNOCENT NDAWULA

Champions Damani shifts focus to Unimoni T20 Cup

A script never opened, read and one never thought of. 
That’s not even enough to describe Aziz Damani Cricket Club’s successful yet historic title defence in the Jazz Safari National League.

On Sunday, Damani scored a rare 100 percent after winning all 14 league matches with a last seven-wicket triumph over Tornado Bee in Entebbe to bag their second topflight men’s club cricket title in as many years. Rare!

It is the first time a team has won all matches and it will become ordinary if another team achieves this landmark. To be honest, not any time soon.

And by the way, it is also strange to imagine that the title race six years was sorted by a bye for four runs when Wanderers’ quest faded through then captain Denis Musali’s gloves from Dennis Tabby to the ropes against Tornado.

Now Tabby at Damani, they wrapped up this title with four matches to go and the cigarettes were out of the packets and whiskey was already flowing down the glasses. “It may look simple,” Damani’s CEO Siva Koti said after the win over Tornado Bee in Entebbe. “... but it was not all easy,” he said.

Winning may seem difficult but maintaining it is even more complex. The results of this season may not tell it all for Damani.
“We had to work hard to retain this trophy. There were two matches that were particularly not easy; Kutchi Tigers and Ceylon Lions,” Koti said.

And granted, Damani family deserved the barbecue and chicken roasting evening in Entebbe on Sunday whose pictures circulated on WhatsApp statuses for players like pace man Charles Waiswa.

But other matches came way easier than expected for example Tornado Bee on Sunday. With four straight titles coming off a 2013-2016 reign, now they were far from that as they were bowled out by Damani for 87 runs in 40 overs. 
Tornado Bee lynchpin Roger Mukasa made 22 runs off 19 balls while Nicholas Kebba had 21 off 80 as national coach Steve Tikolo picked figures of 4/15 in 8 overs.

With the bat, Damani didn’t need their top-order batsmen. Instead, they showed strength and limitless boundaries in class as pace bowler Bilal Hassun top-scored with a half-ton of 61 runs off 38 balls to coast home.

It is a dominance that three-year-old Damani want to expand to other competitions. The side is eyeing the Unimoni National Twenty20 Cup title which bowled off on Sunday. “We don’t want this to appear as a fluke or one-off. We desire to beat the challenge again in the T20s,” Koti added.

CAST OF LEAGUE WINNERS

2018: Aziz Damani 
2017: Aziz Damani
2016: Tornado Bee
2015: Tornado Bee
2014: Tornado Bee
2013: Tornado Bee
2012: Tornado 
2011: Patidar Samaj

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