- Cricket. The mental strength exhibited by Steve Tikolo’s boys enroute to upstaging Vanuatu is worth all the hype but it will count for literally nothing if they don’t over the big Danes at Kinrara Academy Oval today.
Is the job done? No, no, not just yet! The glass is still half empty.But immensely gifted all-rounder Irfan Afridi ensured the glass is half full with a rock-star performance to ensure that Uganda dance closer to promotion for Division III - a feat they could achieve by the end of proceedings today if they can outmuscle Denmark and results elsewhere go their way.
Afridi, like his uncle - former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi - lived up to his reputation as a game winner with a flat-track bully display that not only dug Uganda out of a deep hole but also blew away hard-fighting Vanuatu by 81 runs during yesterday’s Round III of matches at the ongoing International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricket League (WCL) Division IV at the scenic Royal Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur.
Two days after claiming his international career best figures of 6 for 23 in 10 overs, Afridi, like he did during last year’s Division III showpiece in Kampala with a 71-ball ton of 108 runs against Malaysia, further hogged into Uganda’s cricketing folklore by showing that his family is one of ingrain monster bashers of the ball.
On a flaccid wicket after Uganda had been stuck in by Vanuatu captain Andrew Mansale, Afridi stepped onto the crease with the Cricket Cranes in dire straits at 92 for 4 in 37 overs.
Knowing that defeat could as well end Uganda’s campaign, Afridi didn’t waste time to have a look at the bowlers. He opened his account with a pair of runs and then launched into the attack with some of the cleanest hitting there will ever be in the gentleman’s game all over the globe.
One had to be here to watch and believe it as Afridi took the breath away with astonishing stroke play.
With each shot, the Ugandan dugout got onto its feet and urged him on whereas next door on the Vanuatu bench and those on the park, the men from the South Pacific Ocean nation kept shifting their hands from their waists to cover their faces - a sign of resignation.
The Pakistan-born neutralised Ugandan reached his half century off just 14 balls - arguably the fastest in ICC Associate Nations Cricket and his dismissal was celebrated by the men from Vanuatu like they had won a One-Billion Shillings jackpot.
But the scoreboard was reading 147 for 5 in 41.2 overs and from 80 for 3 in 32 overs, Uganda had certainly ridden out the worst of the storm.
Hamu Kayondo (44 off 105), vice captain Brian Masaba ( 28 off 60), Deus Muhumuza (23 off 57) and Riazat Ali Shah, who provided the final flourish as Uganda got 98 runs in the last 10 overs, deserve praise for digging-in deep to set the platform for Afridi.
Nicknamed Lala, Afridi (3 for 24), too, had a say with the ball as he opened the bowling and prized out three quick wickets including that off former South Australia wicket keeper Shane Deitz for a three-ball duck.
Veteran Frank Nsubuga’s 10-over spell cost a miserly 17 runs with two scalps and Riazat (3/16 in 6) wrapped up the dominant show as Vanuatu’s gallant effort was vanquished on 141 all out in 47 overs despite captain Mansale’s 69 runs off 110 balls.
But all that the Cricket Cranes achieved yesterday could evaporate in the thin Kuala Lumpur air if Tikolo’s boys fail to conjure up another clinical performance against unbeaten Denmark at Kinrara Academy Oval today. “We want to leave the destiny in our hands,” said assistant coach Jackson Ogwang.
“We are going to come out buzzing for the clash against the Danes. From when we lost our first game, we told ourselves that every next game we played would be a final. So we now have two finals to go.”
Hosts Malaysia, who controversially beat Uganda by nine runs on the opening day, suffered a 33-run loss to Denmark in the battle of the unbeaten yesterday, and will want to get off the blocks quickly against Jersey today. But Jersey, who lost their second game of the campaign to Bermuda yesterday, will be intent on making a statement as they look to stay in the frame for promotion to the third tier. 2007 World Cup finalists Bermuda will be eyeing their second scalp against winless Vanuatu.
Round III’s action saw movements on log both upwards and downwards, and Round IV’s encounters could see one of the teams seal their promotion.