- Published in National League
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.
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.
A text-book ton from Ronak Patel and five-wicket hauls from spinners Innocent Ndawula and Hamza Amir highlighted the Jazz Safari National Cricket League on Sunday.
But there was a small matter of 2016 runners-up Challengers who, yet again connived to lose a fourth successive match by 18 runs to KICC at Kyambogo Oval.
With the latter having set 262-7 thanks to Siraje Nsubuga’s stand-out 104-ball 54, Challengers were 227-4 after midway the 42nd over before being bowled out in a space of 37 balls. Challengers’ pair Mohammed Aneef (59 off 92) and Naseer Ahmed’s (63 off 100) featured in a solid 90-run second-wicket combobut it was all in vain.
On the brighter side of things, Ronak struck 128 runs off 84 balls - the fourth ton of the season - as his side beat bottom side Patidar Samaj by 340 runs for the fifth win in nine matches in Entebbe. Barely a week into the country from India for the Rainbow Night Cricket Cup, Ronak made 14 boundaries and a six on his league debut. If Ronak carried the day for batsmen, it is spinners Ndawula and Amir who shared the limelight in Lugogo.
Despite making it eight wins in nine outings after beating Charity by 208 runs, Aziz Damani had no answers for left-arm orthodox bowler Ndawula who snared a career best bowling figures of 7/54.
“I will frame this match ball,” burly Ndawula said moments after picking his innings’ ball from umpires Grace Mutyagaba and Patrick Makumbi.
However, Damani batsmen had been unstoppable especially Arnold Otwani (75) and Wasim Butt (63) as they set 280-9. Ndawula hoped his teammates would match his performance with the bat. But Charity were bowled out for 72 runs in 22 overs with Cosmas Kyewuta getting 18 runs as leg spinner Amis took 8/11 in a six-over spell to beat Ndawula to the Man of Match award.
With the chasing pack stuttering in sequence, Tornado Bee know a fifth successive Jazz Safari National Cricket League title is around the corner.
The side are already counting their chances at halfway stage having finished the first round of the season unbeaten with another clinical five-wicket victory over Challengers at Lugogo Oval on Sunday.
“Game was full of planning and we are happy to have executed the strategies,” impressed Tornado Bee captain Jeremy Kibuukamusoke told this paper after his side finished with 39 points from seven matches. “We must work harder in the next round and most importantly, ensure we beat immediate rivals Aziz Damani,” he added.
Challengers, the 2016 runners-up, cannot only muzzle about having lost their third game in six outings but even Irfan Afridi’s missed chance for a century was more painful. Following a slow start that had Challengers at 60-3 in 12.1 overs with only Naseer Ahmed (31 off 56) turning up, big hitter Afridi charged the innings again with six boundaries and seven meaty blows out of the park.
But the Pakistan-born star threw away his helmet in anger after he remained stuck on 94* off 88 at the non-striker’s end when Roger Mukasa bowled out David Wabwire (2 off 7) for last wicket to complete a decisive spell of 5/32 in 8.5 overs.
Challengers had set 209 in 43.5 overs. Tornado Bee fumbled in their early response, reeling at 9-2 after 1.4 overs. But Abdallah Lubega calmed the waters with an 83-ball 70 and, Deus Muhumuza (58*) and Cyrus Kibuukamusoke (36) completed the job with a 50-run stand.
DIV I - JAZZ SAFARI NATIONAL LEAGUE
Challengers 209/10 Tornado Bee 213/5
KICC 187/10 Charity TF 66/10
Avengers 164/10 Mwiri 165/8
ACC 96/10 Premier 66/10
While both teams have already been tipped by the bookmakers, Challengers and Aziz Damani have had contrasting starts to the 2017 Jazz Safari National Cricket League.
2016 runners-up Challengers were inspired by Arthur Kyobe’s 127-ball 108 century knock as they cleaned out the cobwebs and dust with a season opening 218-run win over Nile a fortnight ago.
To the contrary, Damani were welcomed to the topflight with a four-wicket loss to holders Tornado Bee last Sunday. For all Damani CEO Siva Koti’s investment, losing two in a row is an unacceptable.
Hence, star-filled Damani must break the duck against all odds when they meet Challengers in a highly-billed contest at Kyambogo Oval today. “After we lost to Tornado Bee,” Damani’s all-rounder Brian Masaba recollects, “We realised we can beat Challengers if we correct our mistakes. Our fielding was not up to scratch,” added the Cricket Cranes vice captain.
The 2017 UCA Super Cup champions Damani carelessly gave away runs in field, dropping catches in the process as Lawrence Ssematimba’s captivating half-ton of 50* off 86 helped opponents crawl to victory.
Ssematimba’s experience will be vital again as Tornado Bee face Nile in Entebbe.
Damani have added retired national team batsman Benjamin Musoke and off-spinner Fahad Sadiq. The latter will cherish the battle against his former club Challengers, who want to make it two in two.
“Damani are stronger opponents than Nile but we have the ammunition and must deliver,” Challengers’ left-armer Henry Ssenyondo said.
In Lugogo, Kutchi Tigers will face newly-promoted Charity Trust Fund - the first match for both clubs this season. Tigers, whose target is to make the top two, have signed former Patidar Samaj captain Ankit Patel and Shantilal Raghvani.
On the other hand, the Lawrence Ssempijja-led Charity have struggled to retain the services of Singh brothers Narindrer and Varinder.
They will bank on newly-recruited youngsters Ashraf Ssenkubuge, David Wabwose and Joseph Byaruhanga plus Ronald Opio, Simon Ssesaazi and Cricket Cranes star Jonathan Ssebanja for an opening day victory.
JAZZ SAFARI NATIONAL CRICKET LEAGUE
TODAY AT 10.30AM - DIVISION ONE
Nile vs. Tornado Bee, Entebbe
Kutchi Tigers vs. Charity TF, Lugogo
Challengers vs. Aziz Damani, Kyambogo
Tornado Bee vs. Nile, Entebbe
Wanderers vs. SKLPS, Budo
Jinja SS vs. Tornado, Jinja
The flow of runs on Day One of the Jazz Safari Division I National Cricket League was evidence there was hunger for action by the players.
The league start which was arguably the most delayed witnessed nearly 500 runs as Challengers began their title quest with a commanding 218-run victory over Nile at Lugogo Oval on Sunday.
It was a ruthless display from Challengers where their bowlers showed as much desire for the gentleman’s game as the hard-hitting batsmen.
The highlight of it all was Challengers’ opener Arthur Kyobe, who fashioned a familiar start to his season with a calculated ton of 108 runs.
“It’s a great way to start after all the hard work in the nets and gym,” said a smiling Kyobe.
“The wicket was tough to play on at the start but I slowly gelled in,” the former Tornado player said.
Since joining Challengers in 2014, Kyobe often starts the season with big knocks but eventually fades. He thinks things will be different.
“I pray I can balance the equation this season. National coach Steve Tikolo has really helped me and I maintain form until the World Cricket League Division Three event,” added the 28-year-old.
Donning a new black and light green kit with a new jersey number 225 - his highest career score, left-hander Kyobe struck 15 boundaries in his 127-ball innings that ended when he was caught by Ivan Baidhu off Samuel Mwanja (3/55) after 33.2 overs.
Regardless, he combined well with fellow opener Hamu Kayondo (88 off 95) to put up an opening stand of 206 runs. New signings Kamal Shahzad tightened the loose ends with 29-ball 43 whereas Irfan Afridi’s late quick-fire 50 off 22 helped Challengers set 354 runs.
Afridi (4/28), Henry Senyondo (2/20) and new boy David Wabwire (2/48) shared wickets for fun as Nile folded for 136 in 25 overs.
Meanwhile, Tornado began new life in the second tier with a close shave. Henry Okecho’s side pipped careless Strikers by 10 runs with 28 balls to spare at Kyambogo Oval. Strikers needed 70 runs to win with seven wickets in hand but they bottled it.
JAZZ SAFARI NATIONAL LEAGUE
Challengers 354/7 Nile 136/10
(Challengers won by 218 runs)
Tornado 185/7 Strikers 175/10
(Tornado won by 10 runs)