2018 should have been the year that Cricket Cranes and Lady Cricket Cranes left a mark on the international scene.
The Lady Cricket cranes earned a slot to the T20 World Cup Global Qualifiers in Netherlands early this year by virtual of being African champions but their debut at the event didn’t go so well. They could only manage a 5th place finish out of six nations missing out on a place at the finals in West Indies but they experience was worth the while. Gertrude Candiru and Immaculate Nakisuyi showed their class at the event proving that their inclusion in the ICC Global Development side was no mistake, unfortunately both players missed the opportunity in the UK due to visa issues and three players (Mary Nalule, Saidat Kemigisha and Prico Nakitende) went AWOL in Amsterdam.
Unfortunately after Netherlands the African Champions were largely unemployed this year with no international engagement and will now wait for the African qualifiers in mid-2019.
The Cricket Cranes had a chance to forgive the sins of Kampala in 2017 where they got relegated to Division 4. With a change in leadership from Davis Karashani to Roger Mukasa, the Cricket Cranes had a busy 2018 with tours to Qatar and India before landing in Malaysia in May where they emerged champions after showing character to grind out some wins. Youngsters Kenneth Waiswa, Fred Achelam and Riazat Shah gave a good account of themselves with the veteran Frank Nsubuga showing no signs of fading.
The triumph in Malaysia meant Cricket Cranes earned promotion to Division 3 where they would have to compete for a bigger share of ODI cricket (in Oman) which was at stake due to changes in the ICC qualifying format.
In between Malaysia and Oman, the Cricket Cranes easily qualified alongside Kenya for the next round of the T20 World Cup Qualifiers – Africa Region in Rwanda. In an event of only four teams, Tanzania and Rwanda were nowhere close to Kenya and Uganda. The good news for the Cricket Cranes is they will host the last round of qualifiers in which the top two countries will advance to the global qualifiers for the World Cup.
Ronak Patel and Dinesh Nakrani were introduced in the side in Rwanda to add more steel to the batting and they would be key in Oman if the Cricket Cranes were to advance to the Division 2 qualifiers. However, Cricket Cranes failed to live up to the hype in Oman finishing as bottom side in the six nation event.
The only take away was the win over Denmark in which the returning Arnold Otwani scored a sublime half century but other that, everything went wrong for the national side at the wrong time.
Irfan Afridi who has been the Cricket Cranes go to player for the last two years had his tournament ended after six balls in the second game against USA when he was adjudged to be chucking by the umpires, and without their main threat, the bowling attack became blunt and thereafter shit hit the fan with nothing going for the East Africans.
The bottom finish meant that with the new qualifying format, Cricket Cranes will get to play at least 15 ODI games on a home and away basis as they try to qualify for the 2023 World Cup.
The performance in Oman underlined a big problem in Uganda Cricket that will be high on the agenda of the incoming executive with a lot of players being inadequately skilled to compete at the international stage.
With the ODI series due to start in April 2019 there is little time for the cricket cranes to regroup and try and qualify for the 2019 World Cup.
2018 started on a low for the cricket fraternity following the death of local umpire Francis Ekalungar who met his death in a brutal manner. The former accountant of Case Hospital disappeared on the 31st of December, 2017 and when he was only found dumped in the tea estate of Nakigalala with most of his body burnt. His death sent shock waves in the fraternity given the kind of person he was, his contribution especially to the umpires will never be forgotten.
In March, long time serving CEO Justine Ligyalingi announced that he was leaving his role at the helm of Uganda Cricket, reasons for his leaving were not known but for his service of over eight years Ligyalingi had laid the foundation for cricket to take off. Martin Ondeko was chosen as his replacement getting a promotion from Operations Manager in a move that was deemed to ensure continuity of operations. Ondeko has been with UCA since 2005 when he joined as administration officer gaining promotion to Operations Manager before being elevated to CEO. His three year term started in April 2018 and will run till 2021, he has a big job on his hand and as a young executive he will need to be strong to survive board politics.
On the field, Aziz Damani won everything there is to win locally in ladies and men’s cricket. The support by Aziz Damani to Masaka Senior Secondary School worked magic with the Masaka based institution winning the National Ladies T20 title and the 50 Over League. Coach Yusuf Nanga added experienced players such as Gertrude Candiru, Consy Aweko to Immaculate Nakisuyi to form an unbeatable side that was only pushed by Olila High School. Masaka SS powered Aziz Damani were able to emulate Olila High who came from the Division 2 of the ladies league and won the T20 title in 2017, Damani did better by winning both the T20 and 40 over league title.
In the men’s league, Aziz Damani were able to defend their 50 over crown with very little resistance, only Kutchi Tigers pushed them in one of the games but in the end, Damani won the league unbeaten joining an exclusive club that includes Tornado Bee to have won the league unbeaten. The difference between this title and the 2017 title was that Damani barely exhausted their rich line up in most games.
Ceylon Lions and Premier failed the Division 1 grade and will have to find life in Division 2 while Tornado and Partidar were the best of Division 2 earning a chance to play in the top division next year. Nile dropped to Division 3 on the last day of the season after losing to Budo in their final game of the season while the Aziz Damani youngsters beat everyone in Division 3 to qualify for Division 2.
In the T20 championship, Ceylon Lions gave Aziz Damani a bloody nose in the semifinals before conspiring to give away the game in the final over with 13 runs needed for the win with the tail batting.
Defending Champions Challengers were undone by the late night rain with their assembled guns from Zimbabwe and India firing blanks in the rain affected short game, KICC pulling off a shocker to book a final date with Aziz Damani.
Once Damani went over Ceylon Lions the only side that had their number this season they were able to deal with the KICC threat comfortably. KICC for all their explosiveness was never a match in final with only Wasim Butt lighting up the final with a crafted 67 and once he was out the writing was on the wall for KICC.
With the transfer window already open, teams are already busy improving their sides for 2019 and we shall keep you updated on who goes where.