Uganda stun Zimbabwe to enhance T20 World Cup dream

Uganda won their first game against a full member and moved a step closer to the 2024 T20 World Cup

Kenneth Wasiwa and Dinesh Nakrani celebrate Uganda's win over Zimbabwe at the 2023 T20 World Cup Qualifier Africa finals
Kenneth Wasiwa and Dinesh Nakrani celebrate Uganda's win over Zimbabwe at the 2023 T20 World Cup Qualifier Africa finals - Cricket Uganda

For an associate team to overturn a test nation is an achievement on its own, but to defeat a test nation in your first game against a team in the top bracket is a dream few ever realise. It is no longer a dream for Uganda, who toppled Zimbabwe in a dramatic game in the T20 World Cup Qualifiers in Namibia.

Uganda iced a chase of 137 with five wickets and five balls to spare at the United Ground in Windhoek, led by a measured 42 off 28 from Riazat Ali Shah. Zimbabwe captain Sikander Raza had exhausted his main seam bowling options before the end of the game, allowing Shah and batting partner Dinesh Nakrani to plunder 20 runs off the 18th over, bowled by Tendai Chatara. This reduced the equation to needing 10 runs off the last 12 balls. Although Shah was caught on the boundary looking to finish of the game, Raza was forced to bowl himself for the final over, defending only three runs. A delivery at the pads of Kenneth Wasiwa beat the batter and the keeper, running away for four byes to give Uganda the win.

Earlier in the day, Uganda had won the toss and elected to field, and were immediately rewarded as Tadiwanashe Marumani was run out without facing, second ball of the match. After a sluggish start, the Chevrons recovered to a run-a-ball by the end of the 7th over. At this point, Dinesh Nakrani struck for Uganda. Nakrani was the pick of the bowlers for the Cranes, mixing up his pace on a surface that rewarded his efforts, finishing with three for 14 from four overs.

Henry Ssenyondo removed Innocent Kaia in the 9th over, leaving Zimbabwe 49/3. From here, Sikander Raza was joined by Ryan Burl, though Burl could only manage 13 before being caught off Ssenyondo.

Raza batted slowly until the death, when he unleashed against the pace of Bilal Hassun, raising 18 runs off the 17th over. Though Nakrani picked up his 2nd and 3rd wickets in the 18th, Raza pressed on in the 19th, before himself falling for 48. The Zimbabwe lower-order added 13 in the last 8 balls to post a score of 137/7.

Uganda’s reply started in a similar fashion to Zimbabwe’s, with opener Simon Ssesazi run out in the first over. Three overs of spin to begin the innings built pressure, before Richard Ngarava struck in his first over to make it 12/2.

Where Uganda’s seamers had success mixing up their pace, Zimbabwe’s attack opted for a majority pace-on approach. Ngarava and Muzarabani’s extra bounce made them difficult to face, but Uganda took a liking to Tendai Chatara, scoring 43 runs off his four overs. Alpesh Ramjani played an enterprising 40-run innings off 26 balls, before he fell to Sean Williams. But he was replaced by Ali Shah, and as Roger Mukasa made his stride, Sikander Raza started to run out of options.

Unwilling to return to spin, Raza bowled out Muzarabani in the 17th over. It went for only two runs, and Muzarabani for thirteen from his four. Uganda needed 32 off 18 balls, at which point Raza threw the ball back to Chatara. This was the turning point in what could become a famous win in Ugandan sport.

Uganda are only the second team to have beaten a full member at their first attempt, after Singapore beat Zimbabwe in a tri-series in 2019. But this result will have much longer ramifications. After a defeat to Namibia, Zimbabwe’s hopes for qualification to the 2024 T20 World Cup are out of their hands, with two defeats in their first three games. Uganda, having also lost to Namibia, move ahead of Zimbabwe on the points table, and strengthen their claim to a T20 World Cup debut. Kenya also remain in the mix at the halfway stage, unbeaten in three games but yet to play Namibia, Uganda or Zimbabwe. The race now is wide-open.

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