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Cricket becomes more than a sport as Uganda qualify for 2024 T20WC

Last updated on 30 Nov 2023 | 10:02 AM
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Cricket becomes more than a sport as Uganda qualify for 2024 T20WC

Uganda becomes the second side to qualify from African Qualifiers after Namibia, who qualified earlier in the week

“We fight and play our cricket that way. We always not give up until the last ball, we don’t give up. That’s our culture,” said one of Uganda’s all-time greats, Roger Mukasa, back in 2018. 

If there’s one thing that sums up Uganda cricket’s growth over the years, it has been their belief in not giving up. “We fight until the last ball” is the motto instilled in Uganda cricket for the longest time. 

Coming into the ICC Men's T20 World Cup Africa Region Qualifier 2023, Uganda were not expected to be even close to qualification, especially with a behemoth like Zimbabwe in the tournament. Add the experience of Namibia in such tournaments, Uganda were far behind in the pecking order for qualification. 

However, Uganda broke all barriers that came their way to come through to celebrate the greatest moment in their cricket history, becoming the second team to qualify after Namibia.

The dream for qualification only began on November 26 (Sunday), when they beat one of the top seeds, Zimbabwe, in a clash that would go down in history. They were the 23rd-ranked team coming into the tournament, and to beat a side like Zimbabwe, which stunned the likes of Pakistan on the global stage, was nothing short of miraculous. 

It was no surprise that there was an evident Indian hand behind the progress of Uganda as a cricketing nation. The magical hand of Dinesh Nakrani, who hails from Saurashtra, delivered the stunning blow against the Chevrons with figures of 3/14. And, in the run-chase, the Gilgit-born Riazat Ali Shah put on a show with the bat, scoring 42, with the finishing touches from Alpesh Ramjani, who scored a 40 himself. 

In what was a telling statement, Uganda chased the total down in just 19 overs, with five wickets to spare. It was the first time they played a full member, and the result was nothing short of historic. Having done all of this heading into the final clash against Rwanda, it was a tournament destined for Uganda. 

All that Uganda needed was a win. Everything was in their favour. In the previous 16 clashes between the two teams, Uganda was always on the winning side. Barring one clash, it was almost a complete win in all the other clashes. 

In a country that is well-known for being a footballing nation, with someone like Emmanuel Okwi being in the limelight, cricket was naturally only a second sport. But what Uganda has done at the African Qualifier has not only made the world turn and take notice but also their own country, who now firmly believe in the sport. 

Uganda opted to bowl in the must-win clash against Rwanda, and left-arm spinner Alpesh Ramjani gave them the perfect start possible with a wicket off the fourth ball. Across his two-over first spell, the left-arm spinner conceded ZERO and even picked up the wicket of Orchide Tuyisenge. 

Nakrani then picked it up from Ramjani with the wicket of Didier Ndikubwimana. Despite the partnership between Eric Dusingizimana (19) and Mohammad Nadir (11), Rwanda was always chasing the game as Uganda took firm control over things. Four of the six Uganda bowlers finished with two wickets a piece to dismiss Rwanda for just 65. 

66 wasn’t just a number. It would be a number that will be remembered for ages in Uganda’s cricketing history. It was what they had to get to seal a place at the 2024 T20 World Cup in the United States of America and the Caribbean. It was fitting that Simon Ssesazi scored 26 in the run-chase, with Uganda chasing the total down in just eight overs. 

It wasn’t just a win; it was history. For Riazat, Ronak, Ssesazi and Nakrani, it was a culmination of their batting display that resulted in history being made. It was their bowling display for Ramjani, Bilal Hassan and Nakrani, as Uganda left no stone unturned. 

For someone like Mukasa, who made his international debut in 2009 at the ICC Challenge League B first round, it was like watching a dream come true right in front of your eyes. Rogers might have played over 40 T20Is, but no victory has come sweeter than this win against Rwanda. 

For someone like Frank Nsubuga, who first played for Uganda back in 1997, having seen four different decades and several dozen matches, this win couldn't have come at a better decade. 

26 years after his first match, Nsubuga will have a story to tell his family when he goes back home to celebrate this win. 

A story of never giving up. 

A story that has finally helped cricket turn a corner in Uganda. 

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