By Innocent Ndawula
ICC U-19 Africa World Cup Qualifier
Results - Thursday, March 21
*Namibia 250/5 Uganda 141/10
Uganda lost by 109 runs
*Sierra Leone 225/7 Kenya 194/10
Kenya lost by 31 runs
*Nigeria 211/3 Tanzania 60/10
Tanzania lost by 151 runs
Fixtures - March 23 – 10.30am
Kenya vs. Namibia, Wanderers Cricket Ground
Nigeria vs. Sierra Leone, Windhoek Affies Park
Uganda vs. Tanzania, Trsutco United Ground
STANDINGS AFTER ROUND IV
M W L T N/R Pts NRR
Nigeria 4 4 0 0 0 8 1.450
Namibia 4 3 1 0 0 6 2.460
Uganda 4 2 2 0 0 4 0.015
Sierra Leone 4 2 2 0 0 4 -0.990
Kenya 4 1 3 0 0 2 -0.570
Tanzania 4 0 4 0 0 0 -2.420
*NRR denotes Net Run Rate, NR for No Result, T for Tie
It is all over. The World Cup dream will remain a mystical myth for the Baby Cricket Cranes.
Uganda will now have to wait for at least 16 years before making only their third appearance at the International Cricket Council (ICC) Under 19 World Cup. The Baby Cricket Cranes last played in a World Cup with Hamza Almuzahim Saleh as captain in Sri Lanka 2006.
Uganda missed out to qualify for 2018 showpiece in New Zealand on Net Run Rate (NRR). This time round it was a bizarre loss to Nigeria that put paid to the Pearl of Africa’s chances here. It was the horrendous and it came in the least expected of ways.
How Uganda fell short by 30 runs while needing 111 for victory to stay in the hunt for the continent’s lone spot to the World Cup is unfathomable. And the collapse from 57 for 1 to 80 all out will forever be a sad tale to tell for this generation of cricketers.
The loss to Namibia at Trustco United Ground - a 109 runs defeat today (March 21) is statistically bigger but it didn’t hurt as much as the previous day’s one to the West Africans.
All it did was seal Uganda’s fate as one of the countries that will not be on the Airbus to South Africa for next year’s coveted Youth World Cup next year.
“We are still a work in progress,” said soft-spoken Jackson Ogwang. “The World Cup is out of our reach now. That is a fact that we have to accept. But we have to finish strong in our last game against Tanzania and go back home with one more victory in the bag. When we reach home, we will get back to work and I know that our chance will come to qualify. Who knows it could be in 2021.”
No bouncing back
Uganda were looking to bounce back after captain Frank Akankwasa won the toss and stuck in the Namibians, who were celebrating their 24th Independence Anniversary.
And there was some good news from the Uganda camp. Coaches Ogwang and Lawrence Ssematimba gave special debuts for Nyakasura School captain Pascal Murungi and Busoga College Mwiri’s Ramathan Ochimi, who literally just stepped off the plane and onto the playing field.
But there was no good start for Team Uganda. There was a 61-run opening stand between Ramon Wilmot (14 off 38) and Henry Brink (55 off 68) in 15 overs. But only five wickets fell as Namibia piled on 250 runs for the loss of five wickets in the allotted 50 overs.
Divan La Cock (91 off 97) and Matthew De Gouveia (50 off 56) punished Uganda’s loose bowling at the death on the small ground with leg-spinner Simon Oketcho finishing with reputable figures of 2 for 45 in 9 overs.
Arinaitwe’s gung-ho style
The chase was one-way traffic as Uganda sought to chase down the target in quick time to improve their Net Run Rate (NRR). Cavalier opening batsman Zephaniah Arinaitwe’s gung-ho style had Uganda at the fore-front of the chase and momentarily silenced the fair crowd at Trustco United.
Arinaitwe, who made his debut for Uganda at the Four Nations Quadrangular in Nairobi (September 2016), muscled eight boundaries and four sixes in his 30-ball cameo of 69. But when he fell at 74 for 2 in 7.2 overs with Uganda moving at 10 per over, none of the other Ugandan batsmen found their hitting range.
Mauritius Valentine Ngupita caused Uganda’s batsmen problems with figures of 3 for 21, slow left arm orthodox Ettiene Beukes (2/34 in 6) and Mell Theunissen (3/35) wreaked havoc with their pin-point spells with a total haul of eight wickets to leave Uganda at sea.
“Our plan was to defeat Namibia. We did well early on as Namibia batted but their late-hitting got them 250,” said Ssematimba, the assistant coach. “But we also started well. The quick mid-order wickets we lost hurt us big time. But tournament goes on. We cannot win it but at least it will be a perfect consolation for us to finish second.”
In the end, Uganda folded for 141 under 26 overs yet they were moving at healthy run rate of 5.45 runs per over. Coach Jackson Ogwang’s boys now have to play Tanzania in the final match of the tournament with hope that they can end on a high.
Onus on Nigeria
It is Nigeria who remain in the driving seat. They made it four victories on the trot, as they hammered Tanzania by 151 runs. Olayinka Olaleye made a 110 not out at the top of the order, reaching three figures with a terrific, straight six.
His opening partnership with Sulaimon Runsewe was worth 97, and that set Nigeria on their way. Isaac Danladi struck 31 at number three, as Nigeria eventually reached 211 for three.
Tanzania were then put under constant pressure by Nigeria's pace attack, led by the left-arm star, Mohameed Taiwo. He settled for 2 for 20 this time, while Peter Aho returned encouraging figures of three for 7 in eight overs.
But, it was captain Sylvester Okpe who really did the damage, his off-spin reaping four for 19, including the match-winning scalp. If Nigeria can defeat Sierra Leone in their final game, they will head to their first ever U19 Cricket World Cup.
Kenya - Sierra Leone thriller
The third game of the day was a real thriller. Kenya and Sierra Leone have had a quieter time of it thus far, but they came to life when they met. Sierra Leone notched an impressive 225 for seven, with their captain George Ngegba leading from the front with 69 from just 58 balls.
There was also a very necessary 41 from 13-year-old John Bangura, which proved crucial in the final reckoning. Big hitter Chernoh Bah battered 32 not out from 15 balls at the death, with four sixes, to lift his side beyond 200.
In their chase, Kenya stayed interested for a long time. Dilan Shah's 74 not out was the backbone of the challenge, but he eventually ran out of partners. Satish Hirani's 22 looked like it might be the companionship Shah needed, but Hirani was one of Charles Kargbo's six victims, in an outstanding spell.
He would end with six for 32, claiming the final scalp to confirm a hard-fought victory for his side. Shah was left stranded at the other end, helpless against the carnage, as Sierra Leone prevailed by 31 runs.
Friday (March 22) is a reserve day in the tournament, before the final round of fixtures on Saturday (March 23).
Additional reporting by ICC Media