Ahead of a very busy 2020 for the Cricket Cranes, the tours to Qatar and India have tested the extended playing squad. The selectors chose to leave out proven players such as Shahzad Kamal, Ronak Patel, Dinesh Nakrani, Riazat Ali Shah and Bilal Hassun for this outing, giving opportunities to developing players in the tough conditions.
Qatar, in particular, was a big test in terms of cricket and lifestyle, with the windy and cold conditions making it tough for the batsmen to deal with the swinging ball. Similarly, the bowlers strayed a lot down the line as they fought to control the new ball, and taking catches was tricky under the lights.
Uganda played five games in Qatar, winning one T20 and one 50 over game, leaving the visitors on the wrong side of a 3-2 score line.
The T20 games had international T20 status and there were ranking points at stake for both teams, with Uganda going down 2-1 in that three-game series.
The Cricket Cranes had very slow starts in the two T20 games they lost, leaving a lot of work for the lower order to recover from. With very little power hitting options within the team, most of the times the team was playing catch up and this should be a lesson for the interim coach.
The bowling also suffered from a lack of accuracy, especially at the death when the slog was on; the windy conditions also made it difficult to take catches with a lot of chances being put down.
On a brighter note, however, Frank Akankwasa was a breath of fresh air making his senior debut in the short format. He showed his all-round abilities by consistently breaking partnerships, while also laying into attacks at the backend of innings with the bat. He is an exciting prospect for Uganda.
On the back of an undefeated first round of CWC Challenge League B, it’s in the 50 over format that the Cricket Cranes looked more assured.
Saud Islam is the clear stand out. After scoring a century on debut he then followed up with a half century in the next game. Uganda captain Brian Masaba was also in his element scoring some useful runs, and the returning Deus Muhumuza was also among the runs in the longer version.
Despite losing one of the two 50 over matches, the performances in the longer format were much better. The team seems to have learnt a lot about accumulating runs with crafty stroke play and smart running between the wickets, without any need to be reckless in their approach to keep the scoreboard ticking.
If Qatar was challenging then India was going to be tougher without Deus Muhumuza, Frank Nsubuga, Fred Achellam, Henry Ssenyondo and Saud Islam who all returned home after Qatar. Youngsters Calvin Watuwa, Jonathan Kiiza, Stephen Wabwose, Cyrus Kakuru and Rogers Olipa joined the Qatar group in Mumbai for the Indian leg of the tour.
The Cricket Cranes faced quality opposition in two 40 over games against Triumph Knights and Thane Eagles Strikers in Mumbai at the ICWC Academy.
On the oval there was little to celebrate as the visitors lost both 40 over games but there were some runs for vice-captain Arnold Otwani and his leader Brian Masaba.
Again, the hosts were superior in skill but the Cricket Cranes showed character in grinding out totals and scoring 200-plus scores in both games.
From Mumbai, the team moved to Sanjay Farm in Chihkli for four 40 over games and a solitary T20 match. The Sanjay farm leg of the tour had the team leadership shared amongst Frank Akankwasa and Kenneth Waiswa, both former captains of the U19 team, together with Arnold Otwani and Brian Masaba.
There was precious little success on the field of play again as the tourists picked up just one win – in a 40 over game – out of the five matches, but the more exposure for the youngsters to challenging conditions.
On the whole, the Qatar and India experience has tested the strength of the Cricket Cranes’ bench. Players such as Frank Akankwasa have shown that they can suffer in international cricket, pace bowlers Richard Agamire and Trevor Bukenya continue to grow in strength, Kenneth Waiswa is maturing as a middle order batsman and Brian Masaba is leading from the front.
There are problems at the top as Roger Mukasa’s dry spell continues and Zephaniah Katungi continues to struggle translating his potential into performance.
There will be a lot of notes for interim coach Davis Turinawe to share with the incoming head coach, but a good foundation for success has been laid during this tour by exposing some newer players to international cricket conditions when their time comes for the senior side.
After touching back down in Kampala on February 26th the squad immediately began their preparations for the upcoming inaugural Africa T20 Cup.