Hosts Uganda overcame an unexpected wait and passed the mental test after beating Botswana by 52 runs at Lugogo Oval to mark a winning start at the ICC Africa Men's Twenty20 Finals yesterday.
The final result paints a picture of an easy start for the Cricket Cranes but it wasn't a mere walk in the park especially when they reeled at 19-2 with opener Zephaniah Arinaitwe and captain Roger Mukasa already departed after 18 balls.
Prior, Uganda, like all other five participants, had had their would-be tournament opener against Kenya washed out by the rains on Sunday.
But coach Steve Tikolo's troops finally recovered from those psychological barricades thanks to a sleek show from wicker-keeper Arnold Otwani.
Otwani, villain due to disciplinary issues at the previous home event - the bizarre 2017 ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Division Three - turned out hero by producing a man-of-match performance highlighted by his bat.
Walking in at number four, he yielded a fine innings of 44 runs off 27 balls with a flash of six quick boundaries and one powerful maximum.
By the time he departed on the second ball of the 12th over, Otwani's impact had been felt on the field with the board reading 84-3 and probably gotten as much pardon for his sins of two years ago outside the oval rope.
"I am happy," Otwani remarked in a post-match interview.
"The wicket was a bit slow. It wasn't easy to play the big shots so I just had to rotate the strike."
Otwani's partner Hamu Kayondo, with whom they shared 65 runs, then followed him to the dugout with 30 off 31 runs midway the 14th over as slow left-arm spinner Karabo Modise (3/18) held the grip firm.
Dinesh Nakrani (18 off 14), Riazat Ali (24 off 21) and Deus Muhumuza (10 off 9) then combined late to see Uganda reach 142-7.
Botswana were a complete opposite of their good fielding with the bat. Only three of their batsmen reached double digits with skipper Vinoo Balakrishnan top-scoring with 26 off 32 balls before they were all out for a paltry 90 runs with two overs to go.
"We had a few run-outs. [And] no body took the responsibility to take it to 20 overs," Balakrishnan reacted after the innings where Uganda's opening bowler Charles Waiswa picked 3/20, veteran Frank Nsubuga got 2/19 and Nakrani surprisingly got 2/1 in the 17th over. There is no party time for Uganda though as tournament favourites Namibia are their next opponents at the University Oval in Kyambogo this morning.
Namibia, who recently secured a rare ODI status following triumph at the ICC WCL Division Two in Windhoek on April 27, were off to a flyer with a much easier nine-wicket win after chasing 92 runs in 10.5 overs against Ghana in Kyambogo yesterday.
Namibia skipper Stephen Baard led the way with 52* runs off 34 deliveries but Mukasa and company must have their eyes across the entire opposition especially JJ Smit who was MVP last month.
"I want to thank the supporters for today (yesterday) and we need them tomorrow (today). One win in the basket and we are taking it step by step," Mukasa stated ahead of what many have already dubbed the 'tournament final'.
In the afternoon, Kenya, who picked an eight-wicket win over Nigeria in a 15-over tie, face a hungry Ghana. And Botswana hope to recover when they meet Nigeria in Lugogo this afternoon.
ICC AFRICA MEN'S T20 CUP
Nigeria 105/5 Kenya 106/2
(Kenya won by 8 wickets with
16 balls remaining)
Ghana 91/7 Namibia 92/1
(Namibia won by 9 wickets with
55 balls remaining)
Uganda 142/7 Botswana 90/10
(Uganda won by 52 runs with
12 balls remaining)
Namibia vs. Uganda
Kenya vs. Ghana,
Botswana vs. Nigeria,
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