The ICC T20 World Cup Africa Region Final ended on Friday in Kampala with Namibia and Kenya earning the right to represent Africa at the global qualifiers later this year by virtue of finishing among the top two.
This tournament happened to be the second major ICC event that Uganda was hosting in two years after the World Cricket League Div 3 in 2017.
The six teams Namibia, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana and Botswana were to battle for only two slots to represent Africa at the Global qualifiers. Namibia, who last month secured ODI status after winning WCL2 were clear favourites, with Kenya and Uganda set to flex for second.
The unpredictable weather in Kampala was a threat to the whole tournament and when Day 1 was completely washed out, this forced organisers to change the tournament fixtures. 10 out of 15 games moved to the more reliable Kyambogo leaving only five for Lugogo.
The change in schedule meant that teams had to play for five days with no rest, with the only scheduled rest day used to accommodate the rescheduled matches from Day 1.
The hosts Uganda were also given a tough draw with the change of fixtures as they had to face the two top seeds consecutively Namibia on match Day 2 then Kenya match Day 3.
Match Day 1
Uganda 142/7 Botswana 90 (18/20 ov, target 143) Uganda won by 52 runs, Nigeria 105/5 Kenya 106/2 Kenya won by 8 wickets, Ghana 91/7 Namibia 92/1 (10.5/20 ov, target 92) Namibia won by 9 wickets
There were no shocks on Day 1 with all favourites easily dealing with their opponents, Namibia and Kenya with emphatic wins but Uganda got let off by Botswana whose butter fingers allowed Uganda to post a very big total. The hosts were not very convincing with the bat but more assured with the ball as left arm seamer Charles Waiswa tore through the Botswana batting line up.
Match Day 2
Namibia 167/7 Uganda 125/8 Namibia won by 42 runs, Kenya 141/5 Ghana 88 all out Kenya won by 53 runs, Nigeria 119 all out Botswana 108/7 Nigeria won by 11 runs
In one of the games of tournament Nigeria managing to defend a small total of 119 against Botswana and take the win by 11 runs. However, the other two games were decided by classy knocks from Karl Birkenstock (59) for Namibia against Uganda and Rakeep Patel (51*) for Kenya against Ghana.
Uganda had Namibia in sight at 55/4 but a half century from Karl Birkenstock took the game out of their reach with Namibia posting a commanding 167/7. The last time the hosts chased down such a big total they were playing the same opponents in the Africa T20 final in 2009. However, there was no déjà vu as the more fancied Namibia closed out a 42 run win.
In the Afternoon Ghana put up a spirited show with the ball restricting Kenya to just 87/3 within 15 overs but once Rakeep Patel was let off by a drop on 5 he took advantage of the let off and scored a very classy half century to deflate any chances of a shock. Even when Ghana came out all guns blazing in the chase the experience of Kenya was enough to ensure the win.
Kenya’s Irfan Karim joined Afghanistan’s Mohammad Shahzad and Indian great MS Dhoni as the only wicket keepers to complete 5 dismissals in a T20I when he took 2 catches and found 3 Ghana batters out of their ground for stumpings.
Match Day 3 – Derby Day!
Kenya 145/6 Uganda 144/9 Kenya won by 1 run, Nigeria 135/8 Ghana 107/8 Nigeria won by 28 runs, Botswana 46/10 Namibia 50/0 Namibia won by 10 wickets
Namibia had no trouble dealing with southern African rivals Botswana, skittling them for 41 and chasing it down in three overs. Nigeria got one over Ghana in the west African derby with a 28 run win, the numbers a little deceptive considering the dominance of the Nigerians. This game also topped the Live Stream views with over 9k people watching online.
However, the game of the tournament was the eastern derby Kenya against Uganda and the Wednesday encounter attracted a crowd like it was a Sunday afternoon match.
Kenya winning the toss and choosing to bat 1st, the hosts made quick inroads with two wickets inside 4 overs but then again Rakeep Patel happened with another classy knock under pressure. Scoring 51 off 22 balls his six off the last ball of the innings turned out to be the difference in the game. A drop in concentration in the field allowed Rakeep to get back on strike for the final ball as a wayward throw flew over the keeper to allow Rakeep take two runs instead of one.
The chase started slow for Uganda captain Roger Mukasa and Zephaniah Arinaitwe back in the hut early but Hamu Kayondo and Riazat Shah consolidated to keep the chase on track. Losing regular wickets was the downfall of the hosts and with 20 required off the final over and with only 3 wickets in hand Riazat Shah managed to hit 18 off it but Uganda fell agonizingly short.
The second loss for Uganda meant the end of the road for the hosts. Another disappointing home campaign.
Match Day 4
Another wet day with 2 games washed out but Uganda and Ghana were able to play in a game that was so dull, it was easier to sleep at this one than on a 17 hour flight. Ghana won the toss but they were not good enough against a very sluggish Uganda side. Uganda seemed to be going through the motions dropping catches and letting balls through but Ghana could not pull off the same heist like they did in 2015 with the hosts knocking off their 114 for the loss of just three wickets.
However, something everyone missed on Match Day 4 was that the games that were washed were declared draws so Nigeria gained a point off Namibia and this point meant they leapfrogged Uganda into 3rd even though both sides had two wins. Botswana also gained their first points of the tournament after their game with Kenya was also washed out.
Match Day 5 the final day of the tournament was completely washed out with no action possible, points were again shared between the teams affected. Namibia and Kenya claimed the all-important top two positions with hosts Uganda finishing below in 4th behind Nigeria in 3rd, Botswana finished 5th and Ghana 6th.
Ultimately it was a disappointing campaign for the hosts who despite having the games during the week had a lot of fans cheering them on.
Namibia Assistant coach Albie Morkel was a big attraction and might have been surprised by how famous he was with the local fans here.
Namibia no doubt the stand out in terms of class ensuring that they put their opposition in their place, unfortunate their game against Kenya got washed out but it would have been a cracker. The adage “old is gold” was proved true again as Kenya was saved by their experienced players Collins Obuya and Rakeep Patel both holding their batting together after early collapses, and Shem Ngoche and Elijah Othieno were very good with the ball.
This will result in more soul searching for Uganda who have been knocked out of three qualifying tournaments this year, with talisman and captain Roger Mukasa showing just how much the game means to him as he broke down in tears after the one run loss to Kenya.
Ghana, Nigeria and Botswana all showed improvement in their approach but there is still a marked gap between these three and the top half of the draw.
For Namibia and Kenya it’s the Global Qualifiers beginning October 18 in UAE.