When Simon Ssesazi sent Rwandan captain, Clinton Rubagumya’s delivery behind square for a single to complete the chase in the 9th Over, a dream for one of the most passionate cricketing nations had been realized!
A jinx had been broken, a maiden World Cup appearance for the Cricket Cranes had been secured.
The euphoric atmosphere exhibited by a sparodic section of fans present at the Wanderers Cricket Ground was a representation of millions of Ugandans back home.
This was no mean feat! This was a World Cup qualification achieved. This kind of prize is as scarce as a hen’s teeth for a country like Uganda. To put it into context, only three Ugandan senior national teams have ever played at a World Cup. Netball, Rugby women’s and the Men’s 7s.
The hopes of 40 million Ugandans lay put on 15 people, but by the time Ssesazi hit that ball, It was hopes no more, the impossible had been achieved; an end to streaks of near misses and heart breaks had been achieved.
The journey at this qualifier begun with a routine victory against Tanzania a week ago, but Uganda’s resolve and mental maturity was tested when they lost to Namibia in their second game.
In the past, the Cricket Cranes many a time lost miserably to Namibia. This was not one of those losses. It was a close contest that Namibia edged only due to Uganda’s poor fielding.
The pain of throwing away that game lingered on the minds of the faithful so did the approach the Cricket Cranes would take against Zimbabwe- their immediate opponent after the loss.
Not only were Zimbabwe the highest ranked side at the qualifiers, they were the only Test playing nation at this competition. Uganda were about to face a Test Nation for the first time ever. Knowing very well that defeat to Zimbabwe would shatter any hopes of qualifying, how was Uganda approaching this game? Many thought.
The imaginations of beating Zimbabwe at the first time of asking were as wild as they get, but that’s exactly what happened. The internet went awash with shock when the unimaginable happened. The Cricket Cranes had beaten the Chevrons by 5 wickets. This was the game that turned the fortunes around, it was the game that kept the dream alive. Belief was restored after this historic win.
After this win, nothing was going to come between Uganda and a spot at the World Cup. Kenya provided opposition in one of the final two games, but usually a fierce battle, this was a one sided affair. Uganda dominated the derby in every sense of the word as they raced to a 33-run win on Wednesday.
That meant only Rwanda stood between the Cricket Cranes and immortality. Jackson Ogwang’s team dealt very well with the pressure that came with the prospect of qualifying when they took to the field to face Rwanda in their final game.
The comfort in which they dispatched their East African brothers was testament to this. Rwanda laboured through both innings as Uganda stamped their authority en route to rewriting the history books.
The stage had already been set for the triumphant Ugandans. This victory was simply an icing to the cake that was baked a day earlier.
Barring Namibia, no team has been dominant at this tournament than the Cricket Cranes. The players have done themselves a huge favour in marketing the names on their backs. Alpesh Ramjani, Riazat Ali Shah, Dinesh Nakrani, Bilal Hassun and the captain himself Brian Masaba have done exceptionally well to earn Uganda a place at next year’s World Cup in the West Indies and the USA.
They have deservedly earned themselves a seat at the table. They will now compete on the big stage against the big boys. From this qualifier, Uganda advances as second placed team alongside Namibia who emerged top.
Confirmed Countries for 2024 T20 World Cup – India, West Indies, Australia, England, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, USA, Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland, Papua New Guinea, Canada, Nepal, Oman, Namibia, Uganda