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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Seven-wicket star Afridi, Obanda ton headline T20

In terms of results, none drifted off the script as bookmakers’ favourites KICC, Ceylon Lions, Aziz Damani and Challengers progressed to the semi-finals of the Unimoni National Twenty20 Cup on Sunday.

With that being ordinary, the expectation was that the foreign legion hired would orchestrate class act performances.
It is only Kenyan Alex Obanda who lived up to the billing for Ceylon Lions as they went past sorry Jinja SSS while Irfan Afridi too carried the headlines for KICC in their 29-run victory over Strikers.
Let’s begin with the visitor. Two years ago, Obanda came in and played for KICC who fell short to Challengers in the 2014 T20 final.

On Sunday, Obanda was here but Lions’ business and duly delivered, stroking a quick-fire century of 102 runs off 38 balls after his captain Jonathan Ssebanja chose to bat first.
Often quiet and smiling a little, Obanda enjoyed the crease with an innings littered with 12 boundaries and six maximums. “He made the job quite easy for us all and we now look forward to a team performance in the next stages,” Ssebanja noted.

When the openers fell to leave the scoreboard at 38-2 after 3.1 overs, the Kenyan international had a recovery 91-run partnership with Malindu Maduranga (42 off 24) before Varinder Singh made 61 off 24).
Lions set 267-8 despite Jinja’s Derrick Bwire picking 4-38. But rain interruption had Jinja’s target at 89 runs required in 6.3 overs.

Robinson Obuya got 32 off 19 but Varinder (2/1) had done enough to stop Jinja at 49-2. 
Meanwhile, no bowler had a better outing than Afridi who took parsimonious figures of 7/15 in four overs against Strikers at Lugogo.

The Pakistan-born player was reported by the match officials at the World Cricket League Division III match between Uganda and Denmark on November 9 in Muscat, Oman. 
And he missed the rest of the tournament. Afridi seemed to play with hunger when Strikers’ youthful batsmen attempted to chase a revised target of 152 runs.

KICC had earlier set 158-7 with Afridi making an unbeaten 31 off 34 while Frank Nsubuga made 42 off 22. 
As Afridi bowled, Derrick Bakunzi (35 off 20) and Perry Wazombe (30 off 21) had tried to withstand his wrath. In the afternoon, Kutchi Tigers flattered to deceive with the bat, hence losing by nine wickets to three-peat chasing Challengers while Aziz Damani made light work of Tornado Bee in Kyambogo.

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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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Tikolo focuses on death bowling, squad for Africa T20 announced

It takes a great level of keenness to notice sweet emotions flying all over the senior national men’s cricket team camp.
And they are all coming at a time after fixtures for the ICC World Cricket League Division Three due November 6-21 in Oman were released on August 22. That very day was Cricket Cranes’ captain Roger Mukasa’s 29th birthday.
On the next day, coach Steve Tikolo celebrated his 21st marriage anniversary in an emotional post on his Facebook account. So howzat!
One underlining factor is that there is no fear or pressure ahead of this crucial showpiece for Team Uganda. The vibes in the non-residential camp are getting better ever since they won the ICC WCL Division IV title in Malaysia back in May.
“After Malaysia, we have added a few players like Ronak (Patel) and Dinesh (Nakrani) and we have continued with our normal progress,” Tikolo told Daily Monitor yesterday.
“Division III is important for us to progress to Division II and it is coming in six months which is not bad in terms of team momentum.”
But the Kenyan legend further warns; “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, we still need to do the basics right and we cannot be complacent.”
Like the rest of the team, Tikolo is sparing more time to think on how to tackle the humid conditions of Oman and pass the five-match puzzle at the six-nation tournament.
“The Oman conditions are no different from those of Malaysia and that is in the sense of the same sub-continent type of wickets. We did not see too many in Malaysia but Uganda is one of the few teams that averaged 200 runs. 
From what we saw in the ICC World T20 Africa B Qualifier in Rwanda, Ronak and Dinesh have brought in some good morale but batting is an area that we need to work on and as well as tighten the death bowling.”
Speaking of bowling and spin-favouring wickets in the Arabian Peninsula, Tikolo interestingly has more medium pace bowlers (Charles Waiswa, Bilal Hassun, Riazat Ali, Deus Muhumuza, Jonathan Ssebanja and Nakrani) than spinners (Irfan Afridi, Henry Ssenyondo, Frank Nsubuga plus part-timers Brian Masaba and Mukasa) in the team. But he sees things differently.
“Let’s not look at one side of the pace bowlers’ game. Don’t forget that Dinesh, Deus and Riazat can get you runs,” Tikolo argued.
“As a technical bench, we will not assume anything. We shall do our ground work and hopefully be in Oman at least three days before the tournament.”

Paying back the faith
On Tuesday, Tikolo repaid the faith in teenage batsman Zephaniah Arinaitwe who has been scoring centuries for fun over the past three months. 
He is into the team selected by the UCA Selection Committee that will represent Uganda at the Cricket South Africa (CSA) hosted Africa T20 Tournament due September 14-16 before taking part in three 50-over warm-up matches against Kwazulu-Natal Inland and the South Africa Academy teams set for September 17-21. But Ronak is unavailable, Jonathan Ssebanja has again been overlooked whereas Ssenyondo joins his little brother Simon Ssesaazi in the reserves of the notable selections and omissions made to the Rainbow Nation. 
Then after the buffer month of October, Uganda will start its quest for Division II cricket against Denmark and USA on November 9 and 10 in Muscat but the gaffer hasn’t put much focus onto the itinerary that has three reserve days and as many off-days.
“At the end of the day, the rest days will be a benefit for all teams unlike the previous WCL tournaments where there are back-to-back games which take a toll on the players,” concluded Tikolo.

TEAM TO SOUTH AFRICA FOR T20s

Players: Brian Masaba (vice captain), Fred Achelam (wicket-keeper), Zephaniah Arinaitwe, Roger Mukasa (captain), Hamu Kayondo, Dinesh Nakrani, Muhammad Irfan, Frank Nsubuga, Charles Waiswa, Kenneth Waiswa, Deusdedit Muhumuza, Bilal Hassun, Riazat Ali Shah
Reserves: Henry Ssenyondo, Simon Ssessazi, Emmanuel Issaneez
Officials: Jackson Kavuma (Manager), Steve Tikolo (Coach), Jackson Ogwang (Assistant Coach)

POOLS - AFRICA T20 CUP

Pool A - Pietermaritzburg: 
KwaZulu-Natal Inland, Easterns, 
KwaZulu-Natal Coastal, Uganda and 
Western Province.
Pool B – Oudtshoorn: 
South Western Districts, Free State, 
Gauteng, Northerns and Zimbabwe;
Pool C – East London: 
Border, Eastern Province, Kenya, 
Mpumalanga and Namibia
Pool D – Paarl: 
Boland, Limpopo, Nigeria, Northern Cape 
and North West.

By Innocent Ndawula & Darren Kyeyune

Cricket Cranes captain Mukasa welcomes Africa T20 Cup invite

Cricket Cranes skipper Roger Mukasa says playing in the revamped Africa Twenty20 Cup will give Uganda a ‘priceless’ chance to get international exposure ahead of the Division III International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricket League (WCL) in Oman this November.
“We are looking at this opportunity as a priceless one to play against the best franchises in South Africa,” said Mukasa when news filtered in that tournament organisers Cricket South Africa (CSA) had officially announced Uganda as the replacements for Ghana.
The West Africans cited logistical reasons as their notion for pulling out of the expanded 2018/19 Africa T20 Cup which is set to take place in September with the preliminary round on September 14-16 followed by the finals’ weekend on September 23-24.
“We are going to face the best bowlers on the continent and our seamers are going to have to do well against proven hitters of the ball. This will help us improve on our bowling at the death and improving our power-hitting especially in the powerplays,” added Mukasa. Uganda join other African nations including Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Namibia in the competition. 
The Cricket Cranes are in Pool A alongside KwaZulu-Natal Inland, Easterns, Western Province and KwaZulu-Natal Coastal. 
The exciting T20 action will take place in 4 coastal venues in Pietermaritzburg, Oudtshoorn, East London and Paarl featuring 12 CSA Affiliates, 3 Associate Members and 5 ICC Africa teams taking place over two thrilling weekends of T20 cricket.
“We are glad Uganda are in because they’re a capable replacement. This event will provide the ideal opportunity for them to test themselves against some of the best young cricketers on the continent. I know Uganda will be ready to compete, and we are excited as we wait for the highly anticipated competition to get underway,” said ICC Africa Development Officer Justine Ligyalingi. Uganda will remain in South Africa following the conclusion of the Africa T20 Cup to play 50-over warm-up matches against KwaZulu-Natal Inland and the South African Academy respectively.

POOLS - AFRICA TWENTY20 CUP

Pool A - Pietermaritzburg: 
KwaZulu-Natal Inland, Easterns, 
KwaZulu-Natal Coastal, Uganda and 
Western Province.
Pool B – Oudtshoorn: 
South Western Districts, Free State, 
Gauteng, Northerns and Zimbabwe;
Pool C – East London: 
Border, Eastern Province, Kenya, 
Mpumalanga and Namibia
Pool D – Paarl: 
Boland, Limpopo, Nigeria, Northern Cape 
and North West.

By INNOCENT NDAWULA & DARREN ALLAN KYEYUNE

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