Coach Laurene Mahatlane’s rookie Cricket Cranes team shown exceptional grit in defeating Kenya in a nail-biting Pearl of Africa T20 series final victory.
The Cricket Cranes won the series final by only six runs, thanks to a tenacious performance at the Entebbe Cricket Oval in a low-scoring game.
Uganda entered the final with confidence and momentum, having won the most games in the group rounds, which also included Nigeria.
Mahatlane’s team had won one test and lost the other against the same opponents, and they still remembered their one-run defeat to their cross-border foes in Lugogo in 2019.
Deus Muhumuza, the Cranes captain, chose to bat first after winning the toss and set a target for the Kenyans to chase.
Early on, Saudi Islam and Simon Ssesazi set up a solid partnership, bowling out at 75/2. Ssesazi scored 21 runs off 25 balls, while Islam scored 26 runs off 25 balls.
The Ugandans, on the other hand, struggled to build on their first-innings performance, with only Ronak Patel scoring an astounding 27 runs as the hosts were bowled out for 120/9 in 20 overs.
Kenya stepped in and lost little time in catching up to Uganda’s total. Before being bowled by Frank Akankwasa, Gurdeep Bhagat controlled the inning, scoring 44/43.
After only eight runs, Nehemiah Ngoche followed in short succession, while Kenyan skipper Shem Ngoche was out in his 16th over, leaving Kenya at 98/4 with a mountain to climb to win.
With Kenya needing 13 runs in their final two overs, the Cranes pushed for victory. Nelson Odhiambo was injured, Dinesh Nakrani scored one run, and Eugene Ochieng was dismissed.
Bilal Hassun was the Cricket Cranes’ hero in the end, defending eight runs in the final over while conceding only two.
The series has brought Mahatlane double joy after debutants Ssesazi, Hassun, Islam, Akankwasa, and Ssenyondo stepped up when the team needed them most.
The addition of those players to the coach’s list expands his options as he prepares for the Africa T20 finals in Kigali, Rwanda, later this month.