By Innocent Ndawula
ICC U-19 Africa World Cup Qualifier
Wednesday - March 20 - Results
*Nigeria 110/10 Uganda 80/10
Nigeria won by 30 runs
*Namibia 260/8 Sierra Leone 76/10
Namibia won by 184 runs
*Tanzania 143/10 Kenya 144/2
Kenya won by 8 wickets
STANDINGS AFTER ROUND III
M W L T N/R Pts NRR
Nigeria 3 3 0 0 0 6 0.933
Namibia 3 2 1 0 0 4 2.547
Uganda 3 2 1 0 0 4 0.767
Kenya 3 1 2 0 0 2 -0.579
Sierra Leone 3 1 2 0 0 2 -1.547
Tanzania 3 0 3 0 0 0 -2.211
*NRR denotes Net Run Rate, NR for No Result, T for Tie
Thursday - March 21 – 10.30am
*Tanzania vs. Nigeria, Wanderers Cricket Ground
*Sierra Leone vs. Kenya, Windhoek Affies Park
*Uganda vs. Namibia, United Ground
A ride in Team Uganda’s bus after a heart-wrenching defeat over the years is a scenario that can only be likened to a funeral of young man who has just graduated with a first-class degree and assured of a corporate job.
Everything is promising for the young man, like was the case for Uganda, only to be curtailed by evasive forces of nature.
But today’s ride after Uganda snatched defeat from the jaws of victory to go down to Nigeria by 30 runs on Match Day Three of the International Cricket Council (ICC) U-19 Africa World Cup Qualifier was quite weird. It was horrific to say the least.
No one said a thing throughout the trip - the silence was deafening and this reporter’s attempt to steal a quick glance at the back of the bus was met by scowls on the players and officials’ faces that could boil a cup of tea.
World Cup stays a pipe dream
The loss means that the chance to qualify for the ICC Youth World Cup scheduled for early next year in South Africa is no longer in the Baby Cricket Cranes’ hands.
But Uganda will look back and rue a golden missed opportunity whilst asking themselves some questions.
“Why did we win the toss and elected to bowl first when we have been winning while batting first? Did we expect to win after dropping eight catches? When shall we ever bat out 50 overs consistently? When shall we ever take instruction from the coaches and execute game plans to the dot?”
These will be the questions rolling in the Uganda contingent’s heads if they miss out on this golden opportunity to play at the biggest stage for only the third time in the history of Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) - after the coveted back-to-back appearances in 2004 (Bangladesh) and 2006 (Sri Lanka).
Nigeria never give up
One though has got to give it to Nigeria’s never say die attitude. On a newly-prepared wicket at the Windhoek Affies Park that was tough to bat on, they scored one run per-over for 19 overs and only 50 runs in the 37th over with already five wickets down.
Samuel Mba, who walked in at 2 for 2, departed for a pedestrian but all-important half ton of 54 off 139 balls with just six boundaries having batted for 46 overs to guide his team to 104 for 8 by the time he fell to Trevor Bukenya (4/24 in 9 overs).
Captain Samuel Okpe, who was also dropped on zero by wicket-keeper Ashraf Ssenkubuge off pace-man Juma Miyagi, made the Ugandans pay with another solid and steady knock of 26 runs off 72 balls. That helped Nigeria set 110 runs all out in 48 overs.
Those two knocks turned out to be the difference in the low scoring match that saw Uganda get bowled out for a paltry 80 runs in 25.1 overs.
How hell brooke loose
But how did Uganda get here in the chase? The Cranes were actually cruising home at 38 runs for 1 wicket in 5 overs by the time the umpires called for lunch. And even after lunch, Uganda were cruising at 57 for 1 in 8 overs. But hell broke loose.
And it was the most senior player on tour Zephaniah Arinaitwe that took the blame for playing a loose shot to midwicket to get dismissed on 28 yet he had just been dropped by the Nigerian wicket-keeper Sulaimon Runsewe on 25.
They say; “When it rains, it pours.” And that is exactly what happened to Uganda’s innings with the last nine wickets tumbling at neck-break speed for just 23 runs. Unbelievable!
There were two golden ducks and two other zeros in the second innings as Uganda’s ship sunk deep into Windhoek’s neighbouring Atlantic Ocean.
Nigeria’s heroes in the second innings were left-arm medium pacer Mohammed Taiwo, who bowled a nagging line and a bagful of yorkers in his beautiful spell of 4 for 24, Rashid Abolarin (3 for 33) and spinner Isaac Danladi (3 for 9) who willingfully flighted the ball to trap Uganda’s tail-enders.
Coaches maintain belief
But Uganda’s coaches remain full of belief despite fate not being in Uganda’s hands anymore.
“We were in a good place and victory should have been ours,” said assistant coach Lawrence Ssematimba.
“We started well in this tournament but see what has happened today. I remain confident that we still have an outside chance. Our boys have not yet lost hope. Nigeria need to just lose one game and Namibia also haven’t yet played Kenya. Maybe we just need to win our last two games against Tanzania and Namibia.”
For coach Jackson Ogwang, who promised to ring changes ahead of the game against Namibia, it was a big learning curve for the Baby Cricket Cranes.
“Tough loss to take today,” said Ogwang, who is also the assistant coach of Uganda’s senior team. “We were in a good position to pick up a third win but let it go. We have to pick up ourselves for the last two games. We take the bitter pill and move on. But I know we may however need some maths to qualify too.”
Elsewhere Kenya picked up their first win with a comfortable chase of 143 with an eight-wicket triumph over Tanzania whereas Namibia stayed in contention for a slot with convincing 184-run victory over Sierra Leone.
Only one spot is at stake for the six-nations competing here for the right to play in the World Cup next year in South Africa and right now it's Nigeria that are in negotiations with their travel agent as they're still unbeaten.