Coach David Obuya backed Irfan Karim for a spirited performance that earned Kenya a 22 –run win against Uganda in their opening match of the Pearl of Africa T20 series at Entebbe Oval in Uganda after the first match was washed out.
Irfan Karim was in blistering form for the visitors, warming up quicker than usual in his 54 ball 67 that included just four boundaries and one maximum. Karim came up to the crease in no time, following Alex Obanda’s dismissal in just the fourth ball of the match, clean bowled by Bilal Hassun for 6.
“The boys held up well especially towards the end but a lot of effort goes to Karim. I have a very young side here with 10 – 12 changes considering the main players back at home and I’m glad they overcame the pressure with the ball. We had a plan going in, knowing anything above 145 would be a winning target and the boys executed the plan in the first half. Kudos to Uganda, I think they fought back well.”
Obuya stated that he intends to go into the series with a full strength side ahead of the November T20 regional Qualifiers in Rwanda. “We’re playing to improve our ICC T20I rankings and with the Covid 19 Pandemic, you never know whether the tournament will materialize. I gave everyone an opportunity in the two matches we lost in the One Day series in order to test my players’ depth but now I go in with my full strength side. These matches are very important to us.”
Gurdeep Bhagat and Karim put on an 89 – run stand for the second wicket with Gurdeep playing a spectator role before he edged one to Fred Achelam inside the 13th over to gift Frank Akankwasa his first scalp. The partnership was littered with singles despite a determined fielding effort from the hosts, Bhagat only managing three boundaries on his way 27 from 31 balls.
A batter on form, Karim put away everything within his sights before Deus Muhumuza came in to slow down the board. Unsuccessful in his first attempt, his first over went for 11 runs, including Karim’s sole maximum prompting the skipper to pull him back. Coming back four overs later, Karim only managed two runs off the first ball. Three dot balls later, his frustration had him swinging for the gods, only to hole out to Riazat Ali Shah at long on.
Rushabhvardan Patel (20) followed, dramatic in his dismissal to fall stumped off Muhumuza after being dropped on 19 at long off. From 4/135 in 17.3 overs, what followed next was catastrophic as Kenya fell in a pack, losing 5/11 to fold for 9/151 in what looked like a minimum 200 – run target at one point.
Nakrani picked two in two from the final over of the innings when he had Nelson Odhiambo (13) lobe one over to Hassun at mid-wicket and knocking over Zahid Abbas for 2 next ball.
Henry Ssenyondo picked into the bowlers to finish with 2/25 form 3 overs while the seamers bowled their quarters to return 2/20 and 2/29 for Nakrani and Muhumuza, respectively.
The Cricket Cranes’ head coach Lawrence Mahatlane reckons that his boys didn’t start well with the ball. “Kenya batted well and the boys did brilliant to pick 7 – 36 in the back end. We let ourselves down while batting, they bowled well and we didn’t adjust quickly enough – three run outs is unacceptable coupled with some soft dismissals. Saud batted brilliantly but lacked the support out there, however, I’m super proud of the boys as we understand the areas we need to improve in and I think we can be competitive. It’s not a secret that Kenya are well above us in the rankings and they have shown that they have the experience.”
Islam put up in a great shift for the hosts, albeit in vain, putting on a brilliant 49 – ball 61 coloured with four boundaries and one maximum, only departing in the penultimate over courtesy of a ‘flying rasta.’
Uganda’s run chase begun in shambles involving Nehemiah Ngoche for the third time in a row as he teamed up with gunman Obanda to run out Arnold Otwani for 9 in the 9th ball of the innings. Seven balls later, Eugene Odhiambo had Ronak Patel sky one to the skipper at long off for a four – ball duck to have the hosts reeling at 2/14 inside 3 overs. Compounding their misery, Emmanuel Ringera had Muhumuza (1) caught by his skipper 10 balls later to have them stumped at 3/20.
Riazat Ali Shah who has been Uganda’s go – to in the series so far added 51 runs to the board alongside Saud Islam, looking indomitable as ever before debutant Peter Koech had him fledging one to Karim to depart for a well – made 28 – ball 31. Two overs later and 3 runs to his name, Nakrani was fetching a great connection to Rushab at deep square leg to reward the senior Ngoche in a second fiery spell that had him wrap up his entire allotment with 3/22. Rushab was at it again in the next over, picking out Frank Akankwasa (6) to gift Abbas his maiden T20I wicket.
Uganda bowed in the back end to lose 3 – 1 courtesy of Ngoche finally breaching Islam’s defences with just 8 balls to go and then having Eugene pick out last man Ssenyondo for a golden duck, leaving skipper Masaba a lone Crane, unbeaten, but stranded on 10.
Nigeria play two matches tomorrow, against Kenya in the morning and the hosts in the afternoon fixture.