Kampala. Two distinct things happened for Uganda’s cricket in 2018 with each arousing amusement and surprise.
Let’s begin with the first: Aziz Damani Cricket Club.
The Damani song
For all years where clubs have received huge pennies, none had ever dominated club cricket in Uganda over a calendar year like Damani.
Damani won every trophy on offer, leaving the oppositions in their wake regardless of the format.
The 2017 T20 Cup final for the men was played in January and that loss to Challengers won’t count.
So the real dominance began when Immaculate Nakisuuyi produced immaculate spells with bat and ball to conjure 204 runs, 12 wickets for 99 runs and six dismissals and guide the Damani ladies to the Mehta Twenty20 Premier League gong on June 23.
Islam blade, Ssenyondo spin
Later in November, Damani pipped Olila by a point to seal a rare season double by a ladies’ club with the Jazz Safari Women’s 40-Over League title, last witnessed in 2013 by Wanderers.
As if that wasn’t enough. The men did the same in a more fashionable way. Ghulam Hunzai and Saud Islam led the side to the first-ever unbeaten season, winning all 14 matches in a row to retain the Jazz Safari 50-Over League crown.
Islam had made 590 runs in the process comprising a ton and five half-centuries and left-arm orthodox bowler Henry Ssenyondo was best bowler with 35 scalps.
On December 9, Damani ended Challengers’ three-peat chase and as well broke the duck win the Unimoni T20 Cup after beating KICC by 31 runs in the final at Kyambogo.
Mission Malaysia success
Now onto the second distinct item. For years, Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) has never invested in the senior men’s national team like they did in 2018.
The Cricket Cranes went to Qatar, India, Malaysia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, South Africa and Oman but the all-round trip across the globe ended with zero distance.
The year began and ended with where it found Uganda in the ICC Global Rankings via the World Cricket League (WCL) cycle.
In attempt to recover from relegation in their own backyard suffered in 2017, Uganda fought tooth and nail to win the ICC WCL Division Four Championship in Malaysia after captain Roger Mukasa produced figures of 4/20 to help Uganda defend 90 runs against Denmark in what appeared as a tournament final.
The Afridi factor
But overall, spinner Muhammad Irfan Afridi had been the more pivotal element with 15 wickets and as many maidens from 55 overs in the competition.
It turned out Uganda qualified for the WCL Division III in Oman and subsequent events of the T20 format in Rwanda and South Africa only kept coach Steve Tikolo’s side in shape mentally and physically.
Still, Afridi was taking wickets for fun. When the trip to the Arabian Peninsula came, Afridi played Game One and even took 1/25 and two maidens in nine overs as Uganda beat Denmark by five wickets. But the 30-year-old’s impact was short-lived as he was reported for suspected bowling.
According to ICC, the “assessment revealed that the amount of elbow extension in Irfan’s bowling action was above the 15 degrees level of tolerance permitted under the regulations.”
The nation will feel there was foul play to keep their best out.
But that easily got Uganda’s wheels off and the East African nation lost all remaining four matches to USA, Singapore, Kenya and Oman.
Against Oman, it couldn’t get any worse than a 10-wicket loss after being bowled out for a sorry 59 runs in 27.4 overs, finely bottled for relegation again.
Badu in hot UCA seat
Inevitably, there a low key return for the side home, only capping a cumbersome term of office for Badu Ansasira at the helm of UCA.
His position could face a lot of scrutiny in the next elective assembly and, well, only reading from the envelope.
The ICC structure is has been changed in the road to the 2023 ODI World Cup and hence Uganda will play in a new-look Cricket World Cup Challenge League. It will feature 12 teams ranked from 21st to 32nd place in the WCL following the conclusion of the 2019 ICC WCL Division Two tournament in Namibia.
As the men sort themselves, so will be the ladies after displaying their ounces of inexperience as they finished sixth of eight teams at the ICC Women’s Twenty20 World Cup Qualifier in Netherlands back in July.
Immaculate Nakisuuyi and Gertrude Candiru showed their immense talents but to make it worse, Uganda’s camp allegedly got into the wrong books of the organisers in whichever way that could have been avoided.
Cricket through 2018
MEHTA T20 PREMIER LEAGUE:
JAZZ SAFARI LEAGUE: Aziz Damani
AFRIPOWER SIXES CHALLENGE:
Olila High School
SCHOOLS WEEK: Jinja SSS
UNIMONI T20 CUP: Aziz Damani
JAZZ SAFARI LEAGUE: Aziz Damani
JAZZ SAFARI DIVISION TWO: Tornado
JAZZ SAFARI DIVISION THREE:
Aziz Damani Dev’t Team
SCHOOLS WEEK: Busoga College Mwiri
MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM
ICC WCL DIV FOUR - MALAYSIA
Malaysia 208/10 Uganda 199/10
(Malaysia won by 9 runs)
Uganda 249/5 Bermuda 60/10
(Uganda won by 189 runs)
Uganda 222/8 Vanuatu 141/10
(Uganda won by 81 runs)
Uganda 215/8  Denmark 129/10
(Uganda won by 1 run via D/L)
Uganda 90/10 Jersey 83/10
(Uganda won by 7 runs)
ICC WCL DIV THREE - OMAN
Uganda 59/10 Oman 63/0
(Oman won by 10 wickets)
Singapore 204/10 Uganda 141/10
(Singapore won by 63 runs)
Uganda 177/9 Kenya 178/4
(Kenya won by 6 wickets)
USA 252/6 Uganda 198/9
(USA won by 54 runs)
Denmark 165/10 Uganda 167/5
(Uganda won by 5 wickets)
WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM
ICC WOMEN’S WORLD T20 Q -
Uganda 43/10 Scotland 47/1
(Scotland won by 9 wickets)
Thailand 67/9 Uganda 68/6
(Uganda won by 4 wickets)
Uganda 78/8 Ireland 79/2
(Ireland won by 8 wickets)
Netherlands 118/3 Uganda 119/4
(Uganda won by 6 wickets)
Thailand 113/7 Uganda 79/8
(Thailand won by 34 runs)