Friday, March 1, 2024

‘Cricket Cranes’ Uganda qualify for World Cup for first time

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Uganda celebrated wildly after securing qualification for a cricket World Cup for the first time despite a relationship with the game that runs more than a century back.

Uganda secured the 20th, and final, place at next year’s men’s T20 World Cup in the West Indies and USA.

The landmark achievement for Uganda, nicknamed the Cricket Cranes after the country’s national bird, was greater still given who they pipped to get there. Zimbabwe, an ICC full member and the highest-ranked team in the qualifying process will not be at next June’s 20-team tournament having missed out to Namibia and Uganda in the African leg of the qualifiers in Windhoek. 

While Uganda secured their passage to the Americas with the simplest win over Rwanda (skittling their opponents for just 65), it was their earlier victory against Zimbabwe which proved the decisive result in the qualifying tournament. Although Zimbabwe, effectively at full strength, beat Kenya in their last game, it was already too late.

This might be Uganda’s first experience of a World Cup on their own, but two Ugandans, Sam Walusimbi and John Nagenda, played at the inaugural men’s World Cup in 1975 for East Africa.

While at times in the 20th century Uganda contributed to the East Africa team (along with Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia), the country has a long history of the game, having been part of the British Empire. The national team played for the first time in 1914, although they have only been regularly competing again since 2001. 

Strangely, the veteran all-rounder Frank Nsubuga played for East Africa as early as 1997 but is still part of the Uganda squad.

Now, Uganda – and perhaps Nsubuga – will be guaranteed to face some big-name opposition at the World Cup, because the ICC’s new 20-team format means they have done away with the two-tiered structure of the 2022 edition, when eight teams competed in a first round to reach the “super 12” stage. Instead, all teams will be split into four groups of five, leading into knockout stages.

Uganda’s players responded with what their official X account called “the famous nursery school rhyme”, a joyous dance.

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