In one of the most nerve-racking games in recent memory, Uganda made history with a 5-wicket win over Zimbabwe on Sunday at the ongoing ICC T20 World Cup Qualifiers in Namibia.
The Cricket Cranes, underdogs in their past game and this particular one, and facing a Test playing nation for the first time ever eched their names in the history books.
After a disappointing loss to Namibia on Friday, Uganda knew another loss would kick them out of the contest for the top two spots at this qualifier. They were faced with an African giant, one of the only two teams in Africa playing first class cricket.
The Cricket Cranes have come up against some really big names, but this was the pinnacle of them all, yet they knew the only way to keep their hopes of qualifying for next year’s World Cup alive was by beating this giant.
But seeing how close they had gotten to beating Namibia, there was hope getting one over Zimbabwe was a possibility. It didn’t matter whether they were meeting a Test nation for the first time, the fans just wanted this win.
Brian Masaba won the toss and had his team do what they’re good at! Bowl. And as such made Zimbabwe- pre tournament favourites- toil for runs.
The Chevrons only scooped 136 runs thanks majorly to the mean bowling of Dinesh Nakrani and the skipper himself. Nakrani took three wickets, giving out only 14 runs in his four Overs while despite not picking any wicket, Masaba conceded only 9 off three Overs.
Masaba was also involved in the dismissal of his opposite number Sikandar Raza, his catch coming off Riazat Ali Shah’s bowling.
Uganda’s start to the chase was all but assuring. As early as the first Over, Simon Ssesazi was gone. It was a debatable run out, but that didn’t matter, Zimbabwe who also lost to Namibia had gotten a perfect start.
While Uganda were still mourning about Ssesazi’s dismissal, Ronak Patel was caught. Both the opening pair had been ejected inside power play for a combined 9 runs. Zimbabwe couldn’t have been more confident for victory, after all, it was just Uganda, a country that has never sniffed a World Cup.
But their confidence was checked when Alpesh Ramjani joined Roger Mukasa in the crease.
Ramjani was the real deal, the perfect machine Uganda needed to drag the game to their favour for the first time. Four 4s and two 6s he hit on his way to a 40 off 26.
Sean Williams broke that partnership, but that only made it more worse for the Chevrons. Because when Ramjani returned to the dugout, it was time for Riazat- Uganda’s game winner on multiple occasions- to join the party.
Rizu’s partnership with Mukasa and later with Nakrani kept Uganda in control of the game. The all rounder hit Tendai Chatara with two back to back fours at the start of his innings before destroying the same bowler with another two fours and a maximum in the eighteen Over.
Tadiwanashe Marumani caught Rizu’s lofted effort in the fifth ball of the penultimate Over, but with five wickets still at hand, no one was going to contaminate the belief that history was going to be made.
Riazat departed with Uganda needing just one boundary to make history. That boundary was required off seven balls.
For the first time in this competition, vice captain Kenneth Waiswa was called in to bat. He got off the mark with a single with the very first ball to keep himself on strike at the start of the final Over.
At this point, it was anyone’s game to take. Three were required from 6 balls. But Ugandans were saved the anxiety with the very first ball of the that Over as it rolled away for four byes when Waiswa missed it. The impossible had been achieved. Uganda had beaten Zimbabwe!
With this win, Uganda have the destiny in their own hands. They have played both Namibia and Zimbabwe, now all they need to do is win all their remaining three games to book their spot at next year’s World Cup in the West Indies and USA.
They play Nigeria next, on Monday before another crunch tie on Wednesday against bitter rivals Kenya. Uganda will then finalize their campaign against Rwanda on Thursday.
At current state, Uganda sit third with four points. Namibia and Kenya, who both won their opening three games sit first and second respectively.